Ruby Sparks: A Novelist Conjures His Whimsical Dreamgirl

It's one of the most cherished legends of the American indie: A socially retarded ugly duck, despite making no effort to regulate his glaring emotional hang-ups, is discovered as a swan by a clearly out-of-his-league girl who loves him just the way he is. In this case, in a burst of literary Weird Science, the girl (Zoe Kazan) is the fictional invention of one-hit novelist Calvin (Paul Dano) miraculously made flesh—exactly the sort of preciously troubled, whimsical, impractical, thrift-store-chic, just feasibly girlfriendable little kook that Zooey Deschanel has made a career of ("Can't drive . . . doesn't own a computer . . . roots for the underdog")—given the adorable sobriquet "Ruby Sparks" for good measure. It's almost a parody of the type—and as Ruby Sparks continues, it occurs that the film is after exactly that. At first, all is harmonious between Calvin and custom-fit Ruby. When inevitable incompatibilities arise, however, Calvin violates his own rule by returning to the typewriter where he discovers that he can "edit" his creation, inadvertently rewriting her as codependent, dippily elated, and bipolar—license for Kazan to run amok, with a winning lack of self-consciousness. She has the sort of faintly retro prettiness that might make her a shoo-in as the next "it" hipster pinup, a trajectory her film and television work thus far would seem to endorse. She also wrote the screenplay, which begs interpretation as a frustrated actress' commentary on the way even ostensibly serious writers write women—for maximum convenience. Still, the direction, by Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris (Little Miss Sunshine), is never more than workmanlike.

 
comments powered by Disqus