Thoughtful, engaging romcom from the makers of Little Miss Sunshine
The directors of Little Miss Sunshine deal once again with the clash between romantic idealism and vulgar, messy reality, in a thoughtful, engaging romcom that draws great work from its central pairing.
Paul Dano – Little Miss Sunshine’s mournful mute and the fire-and-brimstone baby preacher from There Will Be Blood – plays novelist Calvin, who’s been long-term blocked since a phenomenally successful first publication in his teens. Lonely and in search of inspiration, Calvin begins to write about his ideal woman: Ruby, who’s the sort of quirky, perky, hipster free spirit known to Hollywood as ‘a Zooey Deschanel type.’ Ruby, despite being a silly male fantasy, proceeds to manifest in the physical world, Weird Science-style – and Calvin must deal with his ideal for real. He can make Ruby happy with a stroke of his typewriter keyboard (and yes, he types on a typewriter…), but who can deal with a girl who’s happy all the time? Tone her mood down, however, and she becomes a nightmare of clinging need…
Zoe Kazan, who also wrote the script, is persuasively maddening and adorable as Ruby, and Dano’s Calvin is tremendously watchable, sympathetic and funny. The film beats the life out of its Charlie Kaufman-style high concept somewhat, running out of ways for Calvin to manipulate his situation, and overplaying the scene in which Ruby comes to comprehend hers. But the charm of the performances carries it over its rockier parts, and it’s pretty astute about the dangerous tendency of the introspective and over-educated to turn lovers into idealised abstractions.
More cohesive than Marc Forster’s similarly themed Stranger than Fiction, and with a poignant sweetness under its jokes that recalls Michel Gondry’s masterpiece Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, this is a most endearing, tender and clever thing, and a fabulous showcase for two of the most interesting young American performers currently working.
General release from Fri 12 Oct.