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'Ruby Sparks' brings life to a predictable story

'Ruby Sparks' demands suspension of disbelief, but the film is worth it.

(Page 2 of 2)

Dano has evolved into a competent, unique lead player, despite the fact that his looks, youth and film choices tend to define him as just a quiet hipster. Here he gives us the expected nervousness and astonishment, but he’s able to convey a deeper, subtler palette of anxiety that is more mature than the growing pains we’ve seen in Little Miss Sunshine or Gigantic. With a hearty script and a change to his look, Dano is far more James Spader than Lou Pucci (no offense to Pucci). It’s a point of progress that probably began with There Will Be Blood, and may be necessary for the indie actors of Dano’s generation to continue moving forward.For as much as Dano fans (there are plenty, if a Boston Q&A session is any indication) and Kazan admirers will swoon over their performances, Chris Messina, as Calvin’s brother, is a legitmate scene stealer. He’s the voice of reason in a movie that demands one to successfully pay off the fantasy. Messina, from Julie & Julia and Aaron Sorkin’s The Newsroom, offers control, intensity and a giddy incredulity that gives Ruby Sparks some early weight and an extra comic tone. It’s one of the best and most valuable supporting performances seen this year.

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There’s a slosh of hippie indie style here too, in the form of Calvin’s kooky parents (played with infectious happiness by Annette Bening and the great Antonio Banderas). Their presence is strictly for narrative contrast, and the faux energy is right out of Nancy MeyersIt’s Complicated, an overdone film in which Kazan co-starred. Sure, we’ve seen it before. But we’ve seen plenty of Ruby Sparks before, and it still delivers a lovable little romantic fantasy.

Norm Schrager blogs at Meet in the Lobby.

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