Stranger than fiction

SARAH WATT
Last updated 10:02 23/09/2012
Ruby Sparks
MANIC PIXIE: Writer Zoe Kazan portrays the titular Ruby Sparks alongside Paul Dano.

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REVIEW: In the realm of fiction, it's been happening for years. Geppetto carved himself a wooden son; Frankenstein created a monster. Less magically endowed people have been conjuring up imaginary partners through fantasy (and sometimes just bald-faced lies) since time began.

Struggling writer Calvin lives in a trendy suburb of Los Angeles, weighed down by the success he gained as a bright young thing 10 years prior, and his subsequent inability to produce that 'difficult second album'. He lives comfortably off the fruits of his erstwhile fame, spending his days on his therapist's couch and walking his terrier, the significant other in his life.

When Calvin's dreams about a beguiling redhead turn into an inconceivable reality, it seems that he may be the one writing his own narrative.

Is Ruby for real, or too good to be true?

Taking a twist on the Stranger Than Fiction approach, the film's premise (written by its talented leading lady, Zoe Kazan) is as enticing as its characters. Little Miss Sunshine's Paul Dano balances his gangly physical comedy with a perpetually plaintive demeanour, before allowing his (and many men's) fantasies to give in to a darker, more controlling impetus.

Some viewers will stay on the ride, while others may baulk at the inherent misogyny. It's interesting, then, that this story was written by a woman, by extension controlling what her characters do - while playing the very woman in the film who is merely a puppet. It's a fascinating conceit and this more sophisticated update on its 80s forebears (Mannequin, Weird Science and Splash were versions of this male fantasy) is played out by a great cast, especially Annette Bening and Antonio Banderas. The story weaves its indie magic, keeping you enthralled, horrified and perhaps conflicted as it ends. A brilliantly clever cautionary tale.

Ruby Sparks
Rated:
M
Runtime:
104 mins
Directed by
Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris
Starring Paul Dano, Zoe Kazan

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