Wednesday, 17 October 2012


A protracted lurch from light-hearted comedy to emotionally-fired drama destabilises Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris' second feature, after the Oscar-winning Little Miss Sunshine, but individual moments and scenes are effective in their respective purposes, and Zoe Kazan has an evident intuition for dialogue and character, if not structure. It's perhaps not ever a comedy, although it has the texture of one, but there's a wryness and a gentleness to the storytelling and to the performances which have the same effect as more forthright humour. The only cast member to exploit their character's full comedic potential is Chris Messina, but Annette Bening effortlessly infuses her portrayal of Paul Dano's mother with a sweetness that's quite joyous, if only momentarily. The plot, in which a writer conjures himself up a girlfriend through writing her story, is amusing until it is, inevitably, thrust forward, or, rather, around in circles until Kazan has explored her thoughts long enough and wraps it up in a scene that is more uncomfortable than I had expected it might be. The discomfort started earlier, though, as I found Calvin's manipulation of Ruby only increasingly sad - there's a good, complex, drama here, but it's a film in itself, or it ought to be. Tacked on behind the more irreverent first half, it creates a rather disconcerting combination. Perhaps Kazan's biggest mistake was to centralise her (fictional) character. Ruby is a part of someone else's story - the terms of her existence necessitate this - and the pain that is unavoidably uncovered in examining their warped relationship was only ever going to sour the sauce.