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Ruby Sparks, Zoe Kazan

RUBY SPARKS

Bring on the Zoes
Paul Dano and Zoe Kazan
Directed by Valerie Faris and Jonathan Dayton

We’ve been struck by an invasion of Zoes. Of owl-eyed ingénues with perky, quirky, life-embracing formulas for living. Whose sole purpose is to brighten the lives of pasty young men who could use sunshine in both body and soul.

The Zoe in question in “Ruby Sparks” is Zoe Kazan, not only the star, but the writer of the script. In a strange round of metafictional Twister, she has written a story about a writer who writes a novel about her character. Boxes in boxes, that sort of thing.

Writing about her won’t be the end of it for Paul Dano’s shy writer, suffering from writer’s block, imagining the girl of his dreams. Soon, the girl of his dreams is the girl in his kitchen. He imagines Ruby Sparks into life. Weird Science? No. Weird Liberal Arts.

But building a dream girl is an act of building a dream self. We imagine not the girl who would fit who we are, but the girl who would fit who and what we want to be. This isn’t a problem when it’s all in your head. It’s another thing entirely when you have to live with it in the flesh.

The directors are Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris, of “Little Miss Sunshine” notoriety. They bring a hipsterish vibe to the material. Kazan’s script is playful although perhaps not very insightful. The storyline follows the same idea found in “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” (Michel Gondry), the one which says that in relationships personalities are predestination. The reasons for attraction might inevitably end as the reasons for separation. And there’s no way to change that.

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The serious-minded will throw around critical phrases like “male gaze” or “manic pixie dream girl” in the same conversations where “Ruby Sparks” is mentioned. Most people will simply see it as a cool date night movie. “Ruby Sparks” has a sincere desire to deliver a romantic comedy that’s a little bit off-center. Bring on the Zoes.

Ruby Sparks

Valerie Faris and Jonathan Dayton direct Zoe Kazan and Paul Dano