Movie review: Ruby Sparks

From the August 9, 2012 edition

Calvin finally found the perfect girl. Smart and sexy, challenging and supportive, she complements him in every way. Only one problem: She’s imaginary. Yeah, I’ve been there, man …

“Ruby Sparks” is the sort of high-concept romantic comedy that you’ll either roll with or find obnoxiously twee. I’m a sucker for this stuff, and I kinda fell in love.

Calvin (Paul Dano) is a young writer whose first novel took the world by storm. He’s struggled to repeat its success and is stuck in an endless loop of writer’s block. Salinger much?

He has a minor breakthrough after a session with his shrink and starts writing a magnificent character named Ruby Sparks (played by Zoe Kazan). She’s lovely — perfect, in fact — and then she shows up in his apartment. In real life. Perhaps.

“Sparks” was written by 28-year-old Kazan (the daughter of two screenwriters and Dano’s real-life girlfriend), and directed by husband-and-wife team Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris (“Little Miss Sunshine”).

All of that on-set familiarity lends itself to a breezy and sweet tale that finds plenty of humor in its concept. Calvin’s on-page tweaks to Ruby’s “character” have real-world impact that’s sometimes funny, sometimes tragic.

Despite that somewhat cutesy setup, Kazan pens a surprisingly well-rounded script, eventually taking things in a dark direction reminiscent of Charlie Kaufman.

It’s a fairy tale, sure, but what else do you want out of a love story?