BY DAYNA PAPALEO
(R), directed by Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris
By now the Manic Pixie Dream Girl is a cinematic staple, the quirky, unstable beauty who pedals into a man’s life on her vintage Schwinn and helps make him better. It’s male-daydream hogwash, and screenwriter Zoe Kazan helps to deconstruct the cliché — at least temporarily — in the decent romantic fantasy “Ruby Sparks,” Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris’s directorial follow-up to 2006’s smug “Little Miss Sunshine.” Paul Dano stars as Calvin, a frustrated author whose muse returns once he begins writing about the woman (played by Kazan) who appears in his dreams. Then, in one of those be-careful-what-you-wish-for scenarios, she actually materializes and begins a relationship with the lonely Calvin.
Both as scripter and actor, Kazan lends this trope a sorely needed female perspective, especially when Ruby turns out to have hopes and needs of her own beyond providing unconditional support to a man too self-absorbed to notice that his creation also has a soul to accompany her recent flesh and blood. Supporting ringers like Elliot Gould, Annette Bening, Steve Coogan, and even the hammy Antonio Banderas inject a little frothy fun whenever things threaten to get too heavy, and I love that real-life couple Dano and Kazan aren’t Hollywood-gorgeous; their everydayness makes them seem much more relatable, even if the situation they find themselves in totally isn’t.