*** stars (out of four)
Ruby Sparks, Jonathan Dayton & Valerie Faris' follow-up to 2006's Little Miss Sunshine, starts as a standard romantic comedy but gradually reveals itself to be something more.
Paul Dano plays a lonely novelist struggling with writer's block who writes a scene involving a fictional woman named Ruby (Zoe Kazan) as a therapeutic exercise.Shortly thereafter, she appears in the real world.At first, he thinks he's crazy but everyone else can see her, too.
Initially, it seems like this is a classic wish fulfillment fantasy for lonely guys, but the film has deeper themes on its mind.As Ruby begins to develop into a real person, she drifts away from the writer, which wreaks further havoc on his already shaky self-esteem.
What makes Ruby Sparks worthwhile is the way it pokes holes in romantic comedy cliches.Typically, a romantic comedy (regardless of whether it features a male or female lead) has a beleaguered protagonist whose fortunes turn around for the better once they meet someone.These love interests are rarely developed as characters, merely as fantasies and vehicles to better the life of the protagonist.Ruby Sparks shows the flawed logic in these depictions - love isn't about one person, it's about two people.And if you're an unhappy person to begin with, it's unlikely that entering a relationship will magically fix everything that's wrong with you.
Ruby Sparks is a nice change of pace.Enjoy it before romantic comedies revert backto the realm of wish fulfillment.