Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Switch Flipped

Ruby Sparks       WWW Score: 88%

There comes a point in every film when you either hop off the fence and surrender to utter immersion, or allow it to wash off you like water from a roof pitched at 85 degrees.

For some films, that decision is made for you instantly. The Intouchables electrifying opening sequence is textbook form for enrapturing an audience.

But for others, they sneak up on you, subversively nudging you into a state of unexpected enthrallment. Ruby Sparks is precisely that kind of flick, when it finally clicks, it clicks.

Set in the Hollywood Hills, one-time best-selling author Calvin (Paul Dano) - suffering a nasty case of writer's block - begins having dreams of a red-haired seductress, AKA Ruby (Zoe Kazan). The dreams become daytime visions and soon - after typing up some details on her back story - Ruby magically pops into his organic world; not in imaginary form, wholly tangible.

Now this is precisely the point where 99.7% of projects would jack the premise up, making Ruby solely visible to Calvin while every other character in the movie thinks he's lost his marbles. But co-directors Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris - their first film since Little Miss Sunshine - sculpt the proceedings into something infinitely more interesting through Kazan's screenplay.

Ruby is real; she can be seen and heard by Calvin's brother (Chris Messina), their mom (Annette Bening) - everyone in the film. Think Midnight in Paris. Woody Allen never explained how Owen Wilson traveled back to the roaring '20s, Wilson jumped in the Peugeot and you went with it. Same scenario here, you somehow buy into it.

As for Ruby, after emerging like a Prozac-popping sprite who wants nothing more than to sate Calvin with an insufferable level of adoration, she suddenly sprouts her own set of wings - staying out with friends well past bedtime and stripping-down to her skivvies for one of Calvin's writer rivals.

I am Ruby, hear me roar.

The film hits its apex as Calvin attempts to bring Ruby back under his command through a mesmerizing and haunting sequence of master and servant control via a typewriter. Taking your eyes off the screen is an impossibility.

If you now happen to be on the fence about Ruby Sparks, how's this: Think of it as a seductively sophisticated remix of Weird Science - just don't expect any gymnastics routines or giant globs of fly-eating crap named Chet.