Ruby Sparks – a charming, quirky debut by Zoe Kazan

Scriptwriter Kazan stars in sharp, witty rom-com that flirts with the Pygmalion myth

LAST UPDATED AT 07:55 ON Fri 12 Oct 2012

What you need to know
Romantic comedy drama Ruby Sparks is directed by Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris, the husband and wife duo behind Little Miss Sunshine. The script is by newcomer Zoe Kazan, who also stars in the film.
 
The film also stars Paul Dano as a neurotic young novelist, Calvin, who struggles with writer's block until he creates a fictional dream girl, Ruby Sparks (Kazan), who comes to life from the page.

Elliot Gould plays Calvin's therapist. Annette Bening appears as Calvin's mother and Antonio Banderas as her boyfriend.

What the critics like
This startlingly assured first feature script by actress Zoe Kazan is brought winningly to life by Dayton and Faris, says David Hughes in Empire. It's as though the Seventies-era Woody Allen had created a feature film of a Twilight Zone episode. The comedy "sparkles with wit and substance" and may just be "the sharpest and funniest indie romance since (500) Days Of Summer".

Kazan is a strikingly gifted actress who can also write a "sharply witty and poignant" story, says Peter Travers in Rolling Stone. The movie avoids being sweet and sappy, and isn't afraid to show its claws. "Like the spirited teamwork of Kazan and Dano, Ruby Sparks is honest, deep and true."
 
It's a 21st century rom-com that flirts with the classic Pygmalion myth, says Betsy Sharkey in the Los Angeles Times. Kazan's debut script shows a penchant for risk-taking that is refreshing, but "what binds the films is the filmmakers' light touch with dark themes".

What they don't like
Nice try, says David Fear in Time Out (US). But Dayton and Faris can't resist an opportunity to indulge in "cutesy caricatures" or moments of "gratuitous tweeness". This type of Sundance quirk "can undermine even the most impressive of fictional endeavours". · 

For further concise, balanced comment and analysis on the week's news, try The Week magazine. Subscribe today and get 6 issues completely free.