Sometimes love can be bittersweet

RUBY SPARKS – With Paul Dano, Zoe Kazan, Antonio Banderas, Annette Benning, Steve Coogan, Elliott Gould and Chris Messina. Directed by Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris.

Calvin (Paul Dano) is a young writer with an impossible task. Having already made his mark by publishing an acclaimed novel at the age of 19, he has spent much of his 20’s struggling to live up to his own reputation as a genius. He begins to experience recurring dreams about a quirky, vivacious girl named Ruby Sparks (Zoe Kazan). At his therapist’s suggestion, Calvin breaks through his writer’s block by writing about an imaginary relationship between himself and Ruby, who he begins to realise is his ideal woman. However, when the lines between fantasy and reality become increasingly blurred, Calvin realises he has some hard lessons to learn about the illusiveness of perfection in everyday life.

Ruby Sparks deserves praise for a sharp screenplay by writer and star Zoe Kazan. The movie manages to be light and funny while addressing deeper themes of hope and disappointment. It includes some sharp feminist skewering of men’s idealisation of women and how they react when they realise that the women in their lives are people just like themselves, wrestling with the same fears and insecurities.

The cast are more than capable of doing justice to the sharp writing and Dano and Kazan have great chemistry as the lead couple. The supporting cast all give memorable performances despite limited screen time.

As a movie, Ruby Sparks is as likeable as its eponymous character. It manages an effortless balance between light and dark, whimsy and reality. It is rare to find a romantic comedy that celebrates romantic love with conviction, while acknowledging that people’s expectations of romance are seldom in tune with reality. Ruby Sparks suggests that the pursuit of love is always worthwhile, but it is never easy and often brings as much pain as it does happiness.

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