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Ruby Sparks Blu-ray Review

Ruby Sparks (2012) movie poster Ruby Sparks

Theatrical Release: July 25, 2012 / Running Time: 104 Minutes / Rating: R

Directors: Jonathan Dayton, Valerie Faris / Writer: Zoe Kazan / Songs List

Cast: Paul Dano (Colin Weir-Fields), Zoe Kazan (Ruby Sparks), Chris Messina (Harry), Annette Bening (Gertrude), Antonio Banderas (Mort), Aasif Mandvi (Cyrus Modi), Steve Coogan (Langdon Tharp), Toni Trucks (Susie), Deborah Ann Woll (Lila), Elliott Gould (Dr. Rosenthal), Alia Shawkat (Mabel), Jane Anne Thomas (Saskia), John F. Beach (Adam), Eleanor Seigler (Mandi), Oscar (Scotty the Dog)

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The directors of Little Miss Sunshine finally follow up their acclaimed feature debut
and Zoe Kazan adds to her family's filmmaking legacy in Ruby Sparks. The granddaughter of the great director Elia Kazan (On the Waterfront, A Streetcar Named Desire), Zoe wrote, executive produced, and plays the titular role in this inventive offbeat independent dramedy.

Calvin Weir-Fields (Paul Dano) is having difficulty writing. Ten years ago, as a 19-year-old high school dropout, he wrote a bestselling novel. His "wunderkind" label fading, the gaunt, introspective Calvin struggles with "second album syndrome." He's also unhappily single and requires regular therapy. Calvin seems to find the answer to all of his problems when a young woman comes to him in a dream, stirring his imagination and thrusting him to write about it at his old-fashioned typewriter.

A bestselling novelist at age 19, Calvin Weir-Fields (Paul Dano) is now experiencing a prolonged sophomore slump. Ruby Sparks (Zoe Kazan), the young woman of Calvin's dreams and writings, becomes real and his serious girlfriend.

Then, something unusual happens. This dream girl, 26-year-old Ruby Sparks (Kazan) from Dayton, Ohio, is suddenly real and living with Calvin as his girlfriend. Calvin's initial reaction is that he's losing his mind. Ruby tags along with him to the outside world, though, where he discovers she isn't only visible and audible to him. Somehow, Calvin's imagined literary creation has materialized into flesh and blood, even sparing him the dating process he hates and fears. Calvin's powers don't end there, either. He is able to type anything about Ruby and she is instantly updated to reflect it.

That puppetry power has interesting effects on the couple's relationship, as Calvin tries to fine-tune the boundaries after Ruby and he move past their blissful honeymoon phase and settle into some semblance of a real long-term relationship. When the perky, perfect Ruby starts to slip away and develop a life beyond him, Calvin writes her right back by his side, rendering her overly clingy. When she becomes sad, Calvin gives her a bit much of a chipper spirit. This unorthodox romance, the nature of which Calvin shares exclusively with his close older brother (Chris Messina), presents unique creative challenges to the novelist.

Kazan's debut screenplay is unmistakably inspired by the works of Charlie Kaufman, whose heady comedies like Adaptation and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind are recalled here. But Kazan is not overly derivative and her status as a woman in her twenties (and Dano's real life live-in girlfriend) ensures we get something different from Kaufman's middle-aged insecurities. Still, it's closer to that neurotic trippiness than a grown-up version of Weird Science or Bedtime Stories or the kind of romantic comedy you'd expect from someone too young and promising to be bitter and resentful.

Though skeptical at first, older brother Harry (Chris Messina) becomes Calvin's only confidant. Calvin's creation is born out of his therapy sessions with Dr. Rosenthal (Elliott Gould).

The directors and script were able to attract some accomplished actors, who receive prominent billing: Annette Bening as Calvin's mother, Antonio Banderas as her boyfriend, Steve Coogan as a faintly smarmy colleague, and Elliott Gould as Calvin's psychologist. But the film clearly belongs to Dano and Kazan, who carry it well, supplying intelligence and artistic credibility beyond their ages.
There are no huge twists or departures in store. The film believes in its premise enough to see it through to a perhaps inevitable, slightly cute conclusion.

Ruby Sparks won't win any awards, though it should compete in some of the indie ones. It also deprives directors Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris, a married couple that has helmed music videos for the likes of R.E.M., Red Hot Chili Peppers, The Smashing Pumpkins, and Janet Jackson, the opportunity of being declared one-hit wonders in the world of feature films, where Little Miss Sunshine earned a Best Picture Oscar nomination but no directing nod (a feat that has since become easier to pull off). Ruby should also give a little career boost to Dano, who hasn't picked a clear winner since landing There Will Be Blood, and a big bump to Kazan, who had until this been limited to supporting roles and nothing behind the camera on films like Revolutionary Road and It's Complicated.

After generating strong reviews and a $2.5 million gross in limited mid-summer theatrical release, Ruby Sparks came to DVD and Blu-ray this week from Fox.

Ruby Sparks Blu-ray Disc cover art -- click to buy from Amazon.com Blu-ray Disc Details

1.85:1 Widescreen
5.1 DTS-HD MA (English), Dolby Digital 5.1 (Spanish, French, Descriptive Service, Portuguese, Czech, Hungarian, Polish, Thai, Turkish)
Subtitles: English for Hearing Impaired, Spanish, Brazilian Portuguese, Arabic, Bulgarian, Chinese, Croatian, Czech, Greek, Hebrew, Hungarian, Icelandic, Indonesian, Korean, Malay, Chinese 2, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Serbian, Slovenian, Thai, Turkish, Ukrainian, Vietnamese
Not Closed Captioned; Extras Not Subtitled
Release Date: October 30, 2012 / Suggested Retail Price: $29.98
Single-sided, dual-layered disc (BD-50)/ Blue Eco-Friendly Keepcase
Also available on DVD ($29.98 SRP) and Amazon Instant Video

VIDEO and AUDIO

Blu-ray treats Ruby Sparks to solid 1.85:1 picture and great 5.1 DTS-HD master audio. The film's budget was low, but not low enough to make this look any less than polished and professional. Strangely, Fox has loaded the disc up with unadvertised exotic foreign dubs and subtitles, despite this not being something you expect to carry much international appeal (even if it did gross more outside North America than domestically). And yet those wanting French subtitles are out of luck.

Stars and executive producers Paul Dano and Zoe Kazan discuss being a couple both on and offscreen. Directors Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris conduct business on the Los Angeles shoots of "Ruby Sparks."

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS, PACKAGING and DESIGN

Ruby Sparks is joined by five hi-def short making-of featurettes on Blu-ray. "The Story" (4:07) and "The Cast" (3:39) live up to their titles.

"Real Life Couples" (2:56) discusses the film as a reflection (or not) of the directors and stars' respective romantic relationships.

"Be Careful What You Wish For" (3:47) waxes further on the story and themes.

As you can guess, "Los Angeles: The Other Character" (3:12) discusses the settings/filming locations embraced and the characteristics they represented.

Ruby Sparks' original theatrical trailer (2:12) is kindly preserved.

Finally, Sneak Peek holds the same three trailers with which the disc opens, for Oscar hopeful The Sessions, The Blu-ray Experience, and Lola Versus.

The scored menu applies ethereal effects to movie clips. The disc kindly supports both bookmarks and resuming. With no digital copy download, stream, or bonus disc offered, the eco-friendly keepcase forgoes inserts as well as any other distinguishing feature other than disc art making further use of the poster's face-obscuring artwork.

After some distance created concern, Calvin (Paul Dano) writes Ruby Sparks (Zoe Kazan) to be more affectionate and dependent.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

Ruby Sparks certainly resides at the deep end of the romantic comedy pool. This creative indie has fun with its intriguing, if not entirely original, premise and offers a thoughtful and pleasant time. Fox's Blu-ray Disc is routine but satisfactory. The movie is worth a look.

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Related Reviews:
New: Safety Not Guaranteed • People Like Us • The Raven • Vamps • Sweet Home Alabama • Gabe the Cupid Dog • Everybody's Fine
Paul Dano: There Will Be Blood • Where the Wild Things Are • Knight and Day
Zoe Kazan: happythankyoumoreplease • Revolutionary Road • In the Valley of Elah | Steve Coogan: Our Idiot Brother
Chris Messina: Away We Go • Greenberg • Like Crazy • Julie & Julia | Elliott Gould: The Devil and Max Devlin
Antonio Banderas: You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger | Annette Bening: The Kids Are All Right • The Women
Being John Malkovich • Bedtime Stories • Gentlemen Broncos • Over Her Dead Body • Jeff, Who Lives at Home • Midnight in Paris

Ruby Sparks Songs List: Kovas - "Ready", Tom Trago feat. San Proper - "Corrupt", Calder Quartet - "String Quartet in F Major, K 590 Menuetto: Allegretto", Waldeck - "Jerry Weintraub", Calder Quartet - "", Plastic Bertrand - "Ca Plane Pour Moi", Holden - "Une Fraction de Seconde", Devotchka - "We're Leaving", Buddy Stuart - "I'm So Attracted to You", The Acorns - "Your Name and Mine", Derrick Harriott - "Psychedelic Train", Sylvie Vartan - "Quand Tu Es Là (The Game of Love)", Zoe Kazan - "Skinnamarink", The Lions - "Roll It Round", Pajama Club - "Go Kart", Andrea Bocelli - "Rigoletto: La Donna È Mobile (Act III)", David Wilde - "Patrol", James Yuill - "Crying for Hollywood (Shir Khan Remix)", Fukkk Offf - "Rave Is King (Le Castle Vania Remix)"

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Reviewed November 1, 2012.



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