Time Out São Paulo

Ruby Sparks: review

Ruby Sparks: review

Opens 28 Sep 2012

Director Jonathan Dayton, Valerie Faris

Cast Zoe Kazan, Paul Dano, Annette Bening, Antonio Banderas

Women: You can’t live with them, you can’t keep them from falling out of love with you even if they were created from your own imagination and some sort of magical-realism typewriter. Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris’s Ruby Sparks ('A Namorada Perfeita') –a superior, flawed follow-up to Little Miss Sunshine – subs out family bonding and beauty pageants for a tour of Borges territory, as once-promising novelist Calvin Weir-Fields (Paul Dano) struggles with writer’s block.

His only comfort comes from dreaming, when a golden-silhouetted young woman (screenwriter Zoe Kazan) whispers smart, kooky sweet nothings. The former lit wunderkind begins obsessively writing about this ideal female creation, whom he names Ruby Sparks. Then one day, Calvin awakes to find his REM-cycle muse traipsing around his apartment in her colored tights and offering to cook him eggs.

Pulling a page from Charlie Kaufman’s playbook, Kazan and her collaborators are intent on using this metanarrative to puncture the hipster-Pygmalion notion of the manic pixie dream girl. But given the way the film consistently relies on the highly watchable Kazan’s left-of-centre charms, you end up with a cake-and-eat-it critique: You get to acknowledge how one-dimensional the male fantasies of hot nerd-messiah chicks are while basking in exactly the same thing. Nice try. And though Dayton and Faris rely less on easy emotional pandering here than in Sunshine, they still can’t resist an opportunity to indulge in gratuitous tweeness.

Watch Annette Bening’s and Antonio Banderas’s boho fruitcakes, or witness someone driving along with a driftwood chair sticking out of a convertible, and you will understand how quirkiness can undermine even the most impressive fictional endeavours.

By David Fear
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