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'Ruby Sparks' brings life to a predictable story

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If this were Calvin B.R. (Before Ruby), he’d have to react like the rest of us. Hash out his emotions, ease up his grip, or break up with the girl. But Calvin can potentially change Ruby’s moods with a just few keystrokes. Kazan’s script goes to surprisingly funny extremes to show us Calvin’s power — and the stars are definitely game — but there’s something effectively uncomfortable about a man having that much emotional control over a woman (this would have less impact if the genders were reversed). The discomfort becomes more realized with time, culminating in an exhausting sequence, daring for the possibility that it might fall flat on its face for some audiences.

Dano has evolved into a competent, unique lead player, despite the fact that his looks, youth and film choices tend to define him as just a quiet hipster. Here he gives us the expected nervousness and astonishment, but he’s able to convey a deeper, subtler palette of anxiety that is more mature than the growing pains we’ve seen in Little Miss Sunshine or Gigantic. With a hearty script and a change to his look, Dano is far more James Spader than Lou Pucci (no offense to Pucci). It’s a point of progress that probably began with There Will Be Blood, and may be necessary for the indie actors of Dano’s generation to continue moving forward.For as much as Dano fans (there are plenty, if a Boston Q&A session is any indication) and Kazan admirers will swoon over their performances, Chris Messina, as Calvin’s brother, is a legitmate scene stealer. He’s the voice of reason in a movie that demands one to successfully pay off the fantasy. Messina, from Julie & Julia and Aaron Sorkin’s The Newsroom, offers control, intensity and a giddy incredulity that gives Ruby Sparks some early weight and an extra comic tone. It’s one of the best and most valuable supporting performances seen this year.

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