Bright ‘Ruby Sparks’ a refreshing breeze in the stale summer air

Zoe Kazan and Paul Dano in ‘Ruby Sparks.’ Rated R, 104 min. Fox Searchlight Pictures, 2012.

Amidst a season stuffed with sequels and remakes, movie audiences craving something creative should seek out “Ruby Sparks,” now playing in limited release. Washed-up young novelist Calvin (Paul Dano) falls in love with Ruby (Zoe Kazan), the new protagonist he’s writing about, and one day she magically appears in his house. She’s a dream girl come to life – she does whatever Calvin writes – but she thinks she’s real.

The quirky and insightful comedy-drama takes a playful fantasy conceit and delves into deeper ideas about the give-and-take of real relationships. It goes to places you may not expect, as the pair grapples with self-determination, love, desire and the nature of free will.
Dano and Kazan make a charming couple, but Kazan is the real breakthrough here. She looks and acts like a budding Zooey Deschanel, and wrote the witty and emotionally rich script herself. Annette Bening and Antonio Banderas have small yet effective roles.

Calvin learns that our ideas may not be the same as our real-life ideals, but the sunny, easily smile-inducing “Ruby Sparks” shows that a balance between the two just might be possible.

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