[dropcap style="font-size: 60px; color: #9b9b9b;"] R [/dropcap] uby Sparks is a delightful film directed by Dayton and Faris, who brought us Little Miss Sunshine. This film was written by Ruby herself…..Zoe Kazan. This is particularly amazing because as I watched this surreal, but charming movie, I thought how hard it must be to find an actress who could play Ruby with her guileless innocence and wonder. There are lots of characteristics that lend themselves self-awareness, but I would never have thought someone would see themselves as a clueless neophyte conjured up by the literary imagination of a modern version of J.D. Salinger.
Paul Dano, one of the homeliest actors since Tobey Maguire, is the once famous author prodigy who can’t get a life beyond his Hollywood Hills house and effeminate dog. So his writers’ block turns to an exercise suggested by shrink Elliot Gould….to write the girl of his recurring dreams. That becomes Ruby, without hocus pocus or fanfare, and just appears. Both Dano and his brother Chris Messina have some fun thinking through what they could write into Ruby’s “program”, but mostly, the humor comes in the challenge he has in getting Ruby stabilized. Like all magic, it turns out it’s not as easy as it looks. I guess the message is that love is never easy, even when you’re making it all up yourself.
Another fun bit is watching Annette Bening play Dano’s Big Sur Earth Mother. I can buy that. But Antonio Banderas as Mort, the chainsaw wielding chair sculptor? I can’t suspend disbelief that far, but it was a fun scene.
I find myself wondering how people can live such good lifestyles with such little work. Who invests their money and pays their bills. I’m clearly doing something wrong.
[dropcap style="font-size: 60px; color: #9b9b9b;"] B [/dropcap] eing Flynn has all the elements for success. A great writer/director in Paul Weitz (no, not the “white shoe” Wall Street law firm, but the guy who wrote and directed one of my favorites….About A Boy). An amazing cast with De Niro, Paul Dano (think awkward teenager in Little Miss Sunshine and the kid in There Will Be Blood) and Julianne Moore. A soulful story with the tag line “we’re all works in progress”. But sometimes having all the ingredients doesn’t make for that spark that ignites a film. Being Flynn never ignites.
Robert De Niro plays Jonathan Flynn, who is a purported writer/philosopher who is a woefully deficient father and, quite frankly, a bit of a loser who travels very close to the edge of socio-economic oblivion. Few could do this more convincingly than De Niro. Paul Dano is his lost son who is more a real writer/poet than Dad could ever be. Dano simply looks like a rumpled bed on his best day, so playing a part as a homeless shelter house boy is right in his natural groove. Julianne Moore as the Mom who hopes in futile fashion that Dad will try to be a Dad does a fine job, but let’s face it, this sad-sack storyline is pretty well played out and is what starts to slip about this film. I would like to quote Jack Nicholson from As Good As It Gets when he says with great cynicism, ” Let’s not tell each other our sad stories…” That should be a rule for movies too. We know there are bad parents and wounds of youth and parental attempts of redemption…and piss in the dark corners. Life may not be all about “noodle pudding”, but I’m not sure it’s that entertaining to watch the dark underbelly.
My guess is that this movie only appeals to the 1% who don’t realize that life is usually not a bowl of cherries.