Directors Valerie Faris and Jonathan Dayton put themselves in the shoes of their characters in the new romance “Ruby Sparks.”
The fact that the film follows a writer whose imaginary muse springs to life didn’t change their approach.
Reality matters – even when the story offers a heaping helping of fantasy.
“We felt like it was important that we took this premise to its logical conclusion. Where would it really go? What would it evolve into?” says Faris, part of the husband and wife team behind both “Ruby Sparks” and the 2006 sleeper “Little Miss Sunshine.”
“I think nothing’s more entertaining than looking at the way things really happen,” Dayton says, adding he hates it when a film chases after a joke “at the expense of plausibility.”
“Ruby Sparks,” released July 25 but opening on more movie screens this weekend, casts rising star Zoe Kazan (“Meek’s Cutoff,” “It’s Complicated”) as the title character. She’s the fictional love of a creatively stuck writer (Paul Dano) who magically appears in his home one day. He thinks he’s lost his mind, but when he realizes she’s as real as any other girl could be, he decides to let himself fall for her.
It’s everything a young man could want … right? “Ruby Sparks” transcends boilerplate rom-coms by reckoning with the results of a dream come true.
“We’ve all been there on some level before. You wish for something, you get it, and you realize that’s not exactly how I wanted it to be,” Faris says.
Faris and Dayton haven’t made a movie since “Sunshine,” a surreal state of affairs given the film’s critical reception and raw profitability. When they read the script for “Sparks,” written by Kazan, they pounced.
“It’s funny and really about something – all the things we seek out,” Dayton says.
Faris and Dayton come from a long line of music video directors who transitioned to the big screen. Unlike their flashier peers (David Fincher, Michael Bay and McG), the duo don’t fall back on splashy visuals or attention-grabbing maneuvers to tell a tale.
The laughs in “Ruby Sparks” come from smaller gestures, reaction shots and other nimble moments.
“We never want the style to get in the way …. It does make for what feels like invisible direction,” Faris says.
“If you don’t notice us, we’re doing our job,” Dayton adds.
Faris and Dayton didn’t plan on making only two films over a six-plus year span. But they couldn’t fathom the thought of releasing a less than solid movie into the crowded marketplace.
In indie film, quality matters.
“It’s our responsibility to come up with something that’s different,” Dayton says.
“Maybe that will encourage studios to invest more in original [films],” Faris says.
Follow Christian Toto on Twitter @TotoMovies