Monthly Archives: October 2012

Ruby Sparks

In his review of Elizabethtown (http://www.avclub.com/articles/the-bataan-death-march-of-whimsy-case-file-1-eliza,15577/) Nathan Rabin describes Kristen’s Dunst’s character as the Manic Pixie Dream Girl. This is a kooky girl who only seems to be there so that she can shake the main character out of his brooding existence while being non-threatening and perky at all times.

And so we have Ruby Sparks directed by Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris (Little Miss Sunshine) and written by Zoe Kazan. Calvin (Paul Dano) is an author with a successful debut novel, unfortunately this was 10 years ago and he hasn’t written another book since. Struggling with writers block his therapist asks him to write a page about someone who likes his dog. Calvin eventually comes up with the character of Ruby Sparks (Zoe Kazan) an attractive, wacky artist who likes Calvin for all his quirks. Then Calvin finds Ruby in his flat, thinking she’s his girlfriend and no idea she’s a fictional character he created. Then he realises everyone else can see her too.

Ruby Sparks is about what happens a man’s ideal pixie girl comes to life. True to the trope she brings excitement to his dull life and loves him despite his faults. But rather than just settle for a simple indie rom-com as shown in the trailers for the film, Kazan shows us the darker drama that lies underneath the humour. Calvin has somehow created Ruby into life, and if he keeps writing he can control what she does, which brings up ethical dilemmas and a discussion about how to conduct a healthy, adult relationship. If you were Calvin would you be tempted to control how a person behaves? What if you could create the perfect girlfriend? And what if the Manic Pixie Dream Girl wants to grow up and have a life of her own away from the hero?

Paul Dano is great as the insecure Calvin, not afraid to show us how needy and controlling Calvin can be. The script by Kazan is witty and insightful. She is also great as Ruby with a strong acting range as Ruby goes from to hyper and over-enthusiastic to depressed and tearful due to Calvin’s writing. There is also great supporting cast from Chris Messina as Calvin’s brother Henry the only other person who knows Ruby is fictional, and Annette Bening and Antonio Banderas as Calvin’s hippy mum and stepfather.

The downside to this film is that it might not work for some people expecting a quirky rom-com and finding that it’s got a darker edge. The ending may also leave audiences divisive. But for me I enjoyed the mix of a light, comedic first half and a more thoughtful second half about the male ego and what happens when you only see women in an idealised way rather than as a real person.

4/5

A great deconstruction of the Manic Dream Pixie Girl and her ‘hero’.

 

 

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Looper

Looper is one of those films which is hard to review without feeling that you’re accidently giving away major spoilers to anyone who reads it. I will try to avoid any major plot points but I warn you there may be a few minor spoilers in this review.

Still here? Ok-Looper is the third film by director Rhian Johnson (who directed the brillant Brick in 2005). Its 2044 and time travel has not been invented yet, but it has in 2074. So cime bosses send back anyone they want murdered to 2044 (nice way to dispose the body) where ‘loopers’ kill them and dispose of the body. Jospeh Gordon-Levitt is Joe one such Looper, trying to save enough money to travel to France. His job is simple. Until someone gets sent back that Joe recognises-himself (Bruce Willis).

Johnson excells at making creative, original films. Brick was a film noir detective story-at a high school. This also starred JGL who is great a Joe. Being a hired killer isn’t a great starting point for a sympathetic hero but JGL is a likeable presance to take us through his journey. Bruce Willis is also brillant as ‘old’ Joe someone who we’re never quite sure if he is a villian or hero (at least not at first).

Time travel is a tricky one to to cover in film, done right it can be fun like Back to the Future, made too complicated and it gives me a head sore. Rhian solves this by having Willis directely tell ‘young’ Joe not to think about it too much or they’ll be there all day trying to work it out. I was quite happy to take the advise as I was already going through the first part of the film trying to get my head around all the paradoxs this film would create within itself.  For the most part Rhian tries to make everything link together and make (kind of ) sense. He also does so without letting up on the action.

There are many great sequences in this film. Such as when we see what the mob does to someone who is sent back to 2044 who escapes his looper (Creative Body Horror!) Theres also a lot of tensions in the scenes where ‘young’ Joe seeks refugee at a farm owned by a young mother (Emily Blunt) and her son, and his employers follow.

I’d advise anyone who enjoys intellegant science fiction (or just science fiction in general) to see this film. Its exciting, imaginative and full of great acting. Its downsides are that maybe its not as unpredicatble as it thinks becoming more obvious as it goes along. Its more memorable at the start then towards its ending. Thats not to stay this is not a great story full of action and creativity that deserves to be seen.

And while you’re at it rent Brick as well.

Rating 3.5 out of 5

Fun, exciting, science fiction-but don’t think too much about the logic of time travel.

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