Wednesday night at Sunshine Cinemas was another of the indie lovefests we’ve come to look forward to (and only partially thanks to the apple cinnamon popcorn dust they have at the concession stand). This time it was for Ruby Sparks, the latest from Valerie Faris and Jonathan Dayton, the husband and wife director team behind our favorite cuteferno Little Miss Sunshine. Ruby Sparks is the story of a creatively anguished young writer (Paul Dano) who physically manifests and falls in love with one of his characters, the Manic Pixie Dream Girl of the title, played by Dano’s real life squeeze Zoe Kazan. Ms. Kazan also wrote the screenplay. Of its inception, Ms. Kazan (in a peekaboo Dolce & Gabbana number) told The Observer, “I was walking home from work one night, and there was a mannequin discarded in a trash can in our neighborhood. I thought it was a person, and it scared me! And I thought of the Pygmalion myth about the sculptor who falls in love with his statue. I had a flash of the sculptor alone in his studio, turning his head and thinking he sees the statue move. I thought, ‘Oh, I bet that’s sort of how that myth came to be!’” Per Mr. Dano, “When [Zoe] was about five pages in, she showed it to me, and I said ‘Is this for us?’”
Post-screening we stalked over to the Vault at Pfaff’s, murmuring ‘Pfaff’s’ to ourself all the way. There were sliders. More than once we were asked if it was an open bar. Parents-about-town Cynthia Rowley and Bill Powers were on hand, later seen zipping away on their Vespa.
Charmed by the fondness he had professed earlier for Richard Brautigan and Flannery O’Connor, we were compelled to catch up with Paul Dano again. Ruby Sparks is a generally adorable film; it features a token ethereal underwater swimming sequence. But it also features a disarmingly dark scene in which, to demonstrate his control over her, Mr. Dano’s character makes Ruby convulse, crawl around on all fours barking, snap her fingers, and scream that she loves him, and will never leave him, that he is a genius. It’s…dark. Did Mr. Dano ever feel as if he had been dropped into a horror movie?
“It was a long, hard night, and yeah, it does have that element of horror. That felt like the only place we could go to truly explore what it might be like to control somebody. It was scary, but I think it was worth going there,” he told us.
The Observer learned that Dano was poised to start filming (misleadingly-named Shame director) Steve McQueen’s upcoming Twelve Years a Slave. But had he stuck around for the screening earlier that evening? “No, my family was there, I was too nervous. I went and drank.” Cheers to that.
The lovely waitresses at Pfaff’s were wearing their everyday uniform of—brace yourself—bloomers, silver corsets out of some wildly inaccurate Colonial recreation, and shiny black coattails, all designed by Project Runway alum Christian Siriano. It was a lot to take in, which might explain how we found ourself holding a “Ruby Spark,” the film’s signature cocktail of UV vodka, lemonade and grenadine. The Manic Pixie Dream Girl of drinks, deceivingly innocent looking, but surely capable of wreaking a whole lotta havoc. We passed it off to a colleague. Some things, gentle reader, are just too, too sweet.
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