I was in hiking in Switzerland when The Hollywood Reporter‘s Todd McCarthy posted his LAFF review of Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris‘s Ruby Sparks (Fox Searchlight, 7.25), so the conversation has begun — I just wasn’t paying attention.
“A beguiling romantic fantasy about the creative process and its potential to quite literally take on a life of its own, Ruby Sparks performs an imaginative high-wire act with finesse and charm,” McCarthy wrote.
“It’s perhaps no coincidence that the long-awaited second feature from the directors of Little Miss Sunshine centers on a novelist (Paul Dano) suffering from writer’s block, but the film itself reveals no sense of artistic stasis, proving vital and responsive to the nervy improbabilities of co-star Zoe Kazan‘s original screenplay.
“It’s unlikely that commercial lightning will strike twice for Fox Searchlight to the same degree it did after the distributor picked up Dayton and Faris’ debut six years ago, but the genuinely romantic core and Harvey-like fantastical element suggest real box-office potential to be tapped equally among young men and women
“It’s an intimate, tightly focused tale that’s been handled with impressive rigor but not too insistent a touch. The fleet filmmaking style, which briskly moves things along but never feels manipulative or invasive, is invigorating, as are the exceptionally luminous images created by cinematographer Matthew Libatique.
“A couple in real life, Dano and Kazan individually and together project what is often called offbeat appeal. His large head and mop of hair atop a slim frame convincingly representing an egghead writer, Dano registers many different temperatures of doubt, frustration, inspiration, love and creativity. A sparkling personality shining through regardless of circumstances, Kazan injects earthy life into a fantasy character, capping her extremes of behavior in a wild scene in which Dano’s Calvin rapidly types conflicting commands to which Ruby instantly responds.
“Supporting performances are uniformly sharp, and the use of locations — mostly in the Los Feliz and Hollywood area — is excellent, lending the film a warm, lived-in feel.”