The Mighty Pen

"Ruby Sparks" is a sublime film, truly enjoyable, the writing crisp, insightful and intelligent, unexpected for a contemporary romantic comedy. It also gives meaning to the admonition: be careful what you wish for. Or, in this case, be careful what you put on paper.

Of course, given its surprising premise, the audience must suspend its disbelief. But then so must Calvin Weir-Fields (Paul Dano), a successful fiction writer who produced a huge bestseller at 19. Now, a decade later, he suffers from writer's block, his much-awaited second novel has not been forthcoming, much to the consternation of his agent. Hence a psychologist that he is seeing, Dr. Rosenthal (Elliot Gould), gives him an assignment to write one page, just one page, about a young woman who has appeared, repeatedly, in Calvin's dreams.

Asleep on the sofa in the late afternoon, Calvin bolts upright. He's had another dream about the now familiar woman. Suddenly inspired to put pen to paper, he begins writing frantically about this elusive image, this ethereal woman he soon names Ruby Sparks (Zoe Kazan). The creative juices flow, the words spill out in a rush. She's amazing. She's incredible. The perfect girlfriend.

And then early one morning, Calvin comes downstairs and there, standing in his kitchen, eating cereal, is Ruby. Indeed. Calvin, of course, panics, and the audience asks, collectively, "seriously?" But so charming and wonderful is the moment, and all the subsequent moments — some comedic, others serious — that acts 2 and 3 take place seamlessly. Even a side trip to Calvin's hip parents (Annette Benning and Antonio Banderas) fits nicely into the developing arc.

As the days pass, Ruby proves to be wonderful: generous to a fault, romantic, loving, focused on Calvin, ever-responsive. Not beautiful, actually, but possessing a synergistic beauty that he finds irresistible. They are completely smitten with each other.

Calvin soon discovers, however, that he has an unexpected power over Ruby, one that stems from his writing, which takes their romance to a new and disconcerting place.

In a moment of desperate crisis and insecurity, Calvin seems destructively lost and angry. The mirror he has created of himself in Ruby is shattered and he is devastated. But it's not over until it's over.

Kazan, who portrays Ruby, gives a tour-de-force performance. She is remarkable in an emotionally complex role. Kazan also wrote the screenplay, displaying a talent for writing great scenes and veracious dialogue.

This film is a heartening example of what a romantic comedy can be, instead of the insipid rom-coms that have appeared in the past several years. "Ruby Sparks" is, simply, extraordinary.

The Odd Life of Timothy Green

"The Odd Life of Timothy Green" is meant solely for kids. They will embrace Timothy (CJ Adams), be charmed by his kindness and decency (even when bullied at school), and they won't question for a moment his unusual arrival one dark, rainy night at the home of Cindy and Jim Green (Jennifer Garner and Joel Edgerton). Kids dive enthusiastically into fantasy and never look back. Ask Disney.

Just before Timothy's late-night arrival, the Greens are told they cannot conceive a child of their own. Heartbroken, over red wine, with tears flowing, they make a list on small slips of paper of all the qualities they would hope their child would possess. He or she would rock.

They bury the papers in a wooden box in the garden and then sadly, with a hole in their hearts, go to bed.

Jim gets up late that night and discovers a naked boy, around 11-years-old, covered in dirt, in the nursery. His name is Timothy. And indeed he rocks, in a strange and wonderful way (he also has leaves attached to his legs).

Of course, the script has more holes than a peewee golf course. But hey, this is for kids. Not cranky critics. "The Odd Life of Timothy Green" is about magic (sans CGI) and about a childless couple now suddenly parents and doing their best to adjust to their unexpected arrival.

Remember, this is Disney, where you can wish upon a star. And dreams do come true. However briefly.

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