"Falling in love is an act of magic,” argues author Calvin Weir-Fields (Paul Dano) in Ruby Sparks.
Fitting, then, that the film’s own intoxicating brew of fantasy and rom-com - which bubbles over with contagious charm - isn’t hard to fall for.
Calvin’s a struggling novelist whose writer’s block breaks in a rush as he feverishly scribbles about dream girl Ruby (Zoe Kazan). Then, one day, his creation shows up in his apartment. Stranger still, he can control her every whim with his typewriter…
It’s a labour of love in many respects. Penned by Kazan as a theatrical team-up for herself and Dano, her real-life beau, it took another couple - husband and wife directing duo Valerie Faris and Jonathan Dayton (Little Miss Sunshine) - to launch the script at the screen.
Despite the stagnant cosiness that set-up implies, Sparks is no Gigli.
For a start it’s sizzling with ideas, most provocatively deconstructing - then condemning - the ‘manic pixie dream girl’ stereotype (see (500) Days Of Summer).
Kazan and co aren’t backwards in coming forwards about their feelings on that particular figure, and Sparks articulately unspools its critique all the way to its deliciously, unexpectedly dark climax.
Serious stuff aside, the film fair hops with hilarity.
Six long years after Sunshine, Faris and Dayton bring a feather-light touch to the family relationships - most memorably in a raucous dinner scene involving Calvin’s hippie-fied mother and stepfather (Annette Bening and Antonio Banderas).
This deft directing proves to be the film’s greatest strength: from homespun humour to edgy fantasy, Sparks’ ability to make spliced genres sparkle is nothing short of magical.