Film review: Ruby Sparks

Paul Dano plays an author whose dream girl comes to life in the angry satire Ruby Sparks.
Paul Dano plays an author whose dream girl comes to life in the angry satire Ruby Sparks.

RUBY SPARKS (M) (106 min)

Directed by Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris
Starring Paul Dano, Zoe Kazan, Antonio Banderas, Annette Bening, Steve Coogan.

According to the shorts, Ruby Sparks should be no more than an unwelcome retread of the ''geek invents perfect girl'' story line that has been around for decades. And that is exactly how it begins.

Paul Dano is Calvin. As a teen, he turned out a Great American Novel. And then, nothing. Calvin has endured 10 years of near total writers' block. There's been a few short stories, but his quest for a follow-up to his debut has been fruitless. He is endlessly in therapy (with, joyously, Elliott Gould, whose greatest roles always seem to feature a psychiatrist's couch).

Gould advises Calvin to write about a fictional character, and to write as badly as he wants. Calvin goes home, and conjures up one of those ''adorably crazy'' girls who have been turning up in lame romcoms for decades. And in the morning, guess who's in the kitchen, prancing around in her undies and asking Calvin how he likes his eggs...?

At that point, I very nearly gave up on Ruby Sparks. I've seen the film about the child-like-but-sexual waif who shows up in the life of the spindle-limbed inadequate more times than I care to count. As have you.

But then Ruby Sparks does something not hinted at on the box. It quickly and deftly reveals itself to be what it has been all along: a pretty good satire of that distasteful genre.

Zoe Kazan, who also wrote the script, turns Ruby against her creator. Calvin's idiosyncrasies look more like disturbing insecurities with every scene. While Ruby grows and chafes against Calvin's possessiveness, Calvin retreats into his hollow shell. A tacked on 'happy ending' not withstanding, this is an angry film. As it should be.

Ruby Sparks is overdue. While dressing itself in all the reflexive kook of the genre it is lampooning, the film is gently but implacably pushing the message that all those male writers, stuck in their apartments, dreaming up 'dream girls' who will unaccountably find them irresistible, have been peddling a puerile myth to both sexes for far too long. Someone should tell the marketing company.

The Dominion Post