2012, Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris
After six long years, partners Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris have finally released the follow-up to their magnificent debut feature Little Miss Sunshine, and while Ruby Sparks doesn’t quite match the level of its predecessor, it surely marks the duo as a directorial team that can fulfill their promise. Written by co-star Zoe Kazan, Sparks tells the story of young novelist Calvin Weir-Fields (Kazan’s real life partner and Sunshine veteran Paul Dano), who after becoming an instant success with his first novel at the age of 19 has been on an extended bout of writer’s block while trying to follow up his great achievement. Seems like Dayton and Faris could relate to the character in some ways, as the two were constantly trying to get a second project off the ground and seeing their hopes fall apart before they were able to get Sparks going.
Calvin has shut himself off from most of society, and after having several dreams of a mysterious girl he’s never met, his therapist (a well-placed Elliott Gould) gives him an assignment to write a page about her. The assignment finally gives Calvin the inspiration that he needs and he quickly goes to work on his new novel, all about the Ruby Sparks of his dreams. However, the plot really kicks in when he wakes up one morning to find that Ruby has come off the page and is now in his kitchen, wearing one of his shirts and eating some cereal as if she’s been there all along. Ruby Sparks takes a high concept and mostly makes it work, due to Kazan’s script which forces the viewer to accept the situation without spending too much time on the burden of realistic explanation.
Calvin’s reaction to his new houseguest, who claims to be his longtime girlfriend, is as natural as any (he thinks he’s lost his mind), but slowly he comes to accept her placement in his life and the film takes on an interesting exploration of how someone with the power to write the girl of his dreams into existence can abuse that rare gift. There are some complaints I had with the logic of the situation, not the basic premise but rather the execution of some of the later scenes, but in something as fantastical as this it seems kind of silly to analyze certain aspects of that premise after accepting the basic idea of it all. What makes Sparks succeed is in how Kazan strips apart the Manic Pixie Dream Girl type, taking the ideal of the “perfect woman” and showing Calvin that flaws are what make us human. Ruby starts off not as a real person, but as she grows into her own and starts to drift away, he tries to alter her and it only makes the situation even worse.
There’s a lot of solid support from the ensemble cast, particularly Chris Messina as Calvin’s brother, who takes the role of the stereotypical man and adds poignancy, charm and a lot of humor whenever he comes around, but the real focus is on Dano and Kazan. Often times it doesn’t work when a real-life pair brings their romance to the screen, but these two seem to be so perfectly in tune with one another that they are able to effectively capture all angles of this peculiar romance between Calvin and Ruby. A fascinating study not only into the mind of a writer, but the mind of any man, Ruby Sparkstakes a deep look into our perception of what we want in our mates and how that very concept is unrealistic.
A great film in its own right, it also does three other things that bring promise to the future of those involved with it. For one, after a few years of suffering through one painful trite “quirky” dramedy after another, it’s finally given Dano another plum role that demonstrates his true value as an upcoming young actor. Secondly, it proves that Little Miss Sunshine was no fluke for the directing pair of Dayton and Faris, and now let’s hope that their next feature doesn’t take another six years to come to us. Finally, it introduces a superb new writing talent in the form of Zoe Kazan, someone who I’ll be greatly looking forward to seeing what she comes up with next on that front.
Film #326 of The 365 Film Challenge.
FOX has picked up six additional episodes of BEN AND KATE and nine additional episodes of THE MINDY PROJECT, bringing both new Tuesday night comedies to full-season orders, it was announced today by Kevin Reilly, Chairman of Entertainment, Fox Broadcasting Company.
“BEN AND KATE and THE MINDY PROJECT have everything we want to stand for in comedy: smart writing, hugely appealing casts and comedy that feels contemporary and real - which is why we’re confident they will continue to build on what is already an appointment comedy night for young, influential audiences on Tuesdays,” said Reilly.
In tomorrow’s all-new episode of BEN AND KATE, “The Fox Hunt,” airing Tuesday, Oct. 9, (8:30-9:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX, BEN (Nat Faxon) and KATE (Dakota Johnson) discover an unopened envelope from 15 years ago that contains the yearly scavenger hunt their dad used to organize for them when they were kids. The find prompts them to complete the unfinished hunt, with BJ (Lucy Punch), TOMMY (Echo Kellum) and MADDIE’s (Maggie Elizabeth Jones) help, but raises old issues of sibling rivalry. Meanwhile, the scavenger hunt takes an unexpected detour when BJ enlists Kate to help get her belongings back from an old fling.
In the all-new “In The Club” episode of THE MINDY PROJECT airing Tuesday, Oct. 9 (9:30-10:00 PM ET/PT), SHAUNA (Amanda Setton) takes the office to the hottest nightclub in town, where MINDY (Mindy Kaling) meets an unlikely suitor (guest star Tommy Dewey) who works as a lawyer for the New York Knicks. Meanwhile, DANNY (Chris Messina) hits the dance floor, JEREMY (Ed Weeks) hits on a bride-to-be, and MORGAN (guest star Ike Barinholtz) unexpectedly makes some extra cash as the club’s bathroom attendant. Season to date, THE MINDY PROJECT is the No. 1 new comedy among Adults 18-34.
From writer/executive producer Dana Fox (NEW GIRL, “What Happens in Vegas”) and executive producer/director Jake Kasdan (NEW GIRL, “Bad Teacher”), BEN AND KATE follows a pair of odd-couple siblings – one, an overly responsible single mom; the other, an exuberant dreamer – and their friends as they push each other out of their comfort zones and into real life.
BEN AND KATE is produced by 20th Century Fox Television and Chernin Entertainment. The series is created and written by Dana Fox. The series is executive-produced by Fox, Peter Chernin, Katherine Pope and Jake Kasdan. “Like” BEN AND KATE on Facebook at www.Facebook.com/BenandKate. Follow the series on Twitter @BenandKateFOX and join the discussion at #benandkate.
Created and written by Mindy Kaling (“The Office”), THE MINDY PROJECT stars Kaling as a skilled OB/GYN trying to balance both her personal and professional life.
THE MINDY PROJECT is produced by 3 Arts Entertainment in association with Universal Television. The series is created and written by Mindy Kaling. Kaling, Howard Klein (“The Office,” “Parks and Recreation”), Matt Warburton (THE SIMPSONS) and Michael Spillman (“Modern Family”) are executive producers. “Like” THE MINDY PROJECT on Facebook at www.Facebook.com/TheMindyProject. Follow the series on Twitter @MindyProjectFOX and join the discussion at #themindyproject.