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t's been a strange summer season so for at the art house. Unlike last year, which was dominated early both critically and at the box office by "Midnight in Paris," "The Tree of Life" and "Beginners," 2012 looked like it would be much quieter. That's hardly been the case. Focus Features' "Moonrise Kingdom" is a certifiable hit, "Best Exotic Marigold Hotel" is pretty much a global blockbuster (even if it's not really playing to the traditional specialty crowd), Weinstein's "Intouchables" is a solid foreign language player, the success of Millenium's "Bernie" is proving an embarrassment to all the major indies who turned it down and "To Rome With Love" and "The Beasts of the Southern Wild" have been superb in their limited runs so far. One film that could tap into the crowd that enjoyed "Moonrise" is "Ruby Sparks."
The first film from directors Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris since the Oscar-nominated "Little Miss Sunshine," "Sparks" tells the tale of a young writer (Paul Dano) who is known for authoring one of the most beloved novels of the new century. Unfortunately, that always contagious disease of writer's block sets in and he's having problems coming up with his next tome. Lonely, he conjures of a character he names Ruby on his typewriter (the guy is old school) and, bizarrely, she just appears in his kitchen the next day. He soon realizes it is the same Ruby he's made up in his imagination, but that everyone else in the "real" world can see her too. This could be the plot line of a half-dozen studio romantic comedies, but "Sparks" has a realistic and dark edge that sets it apart. One of those reasons is because it was written by "Ruby" herself, actress and screenwriter Zoe Kazan.
There is one scene in Kazan - that hopefully the studio won't give away online or in TV spots - that makes watching the entire film worthwhile. It's a moment when Ruby realizes she isn't in control of herself and Kazan gives an emotional performance that's something special. But, beyond her acting skills, Kazan shows real talent as a first time screenwriter. So much so, you wonder what she'll do next.
In anticipation of the film's July 25 limited release, Fox Searchlight has provided an in-depth video which includes new footage from the film and commentary from Kazan, Faris, Dayton and Dano (who has no producing credits, but appears to be intimately involved with getting "Sparks" to the screen). You can watch it embedded at the top of this post. You might just like what you see.
"Ruby Sparks" opens in limited release on July 25.