This movie isn’t (500) Days of Summer, but I thought about it while watching this. That’s because that was a romantic comedy with a lot of dark elements. This is 500 Pages of Sparks. You see, a writer with writers block (is there any other kind in a movie?) was given an assignment by his shrink (the always welcome Elliott Gould). He has to write about a woman.
Paul Dano plays this writer, and is enthusiastic at how well the pages start flowing. But something strange happens on the way to the typewriter. The woman magically appears. It immediately helps in his professional and private life.
It’s like Weird Science but for intellectuals. You see, he doesn’t run to the typewriter and write that she has big jugs or wants to take a shower with him. He sometimes types that she knows French, and we start hearing it as she prepares dinner. And truth be told, I’d take Zoe Kazan over Kelly LeBrock every day of the week and twice on Sunday. She’s like a cuter Zooey Deschanel, without the annoying Deschanel voice and mannerisms.
I don’t think it’s fair that this movie is going to be compared with Weird Science, Stranger Than Fiction, Harvey, and a bunch of other films. It might not be the most original premise, but Kazan (who not only plays Ruby Sparks but wrote the screenplay) made it interesting enough to enjoy.
I left the theatre imaging a studio head saying “I know you’re dating Dano in real life, but we could get Jim Carey.”
That wouldn’t have been as good.
I could picture Woody Allen writing it, and replacing Kazan with Scarlett Johanson; filming it in France.
That wouldn’t have been as good.
Perhaps the husband/wife team of directors Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris understood this. They worked with Dano in their first movie, which was a huge hit (Little Miss Sunshine).
As a writer, I could appreciate the creative process we see Dano go through as he writes. Those are things most should be able to enjoy, as well as the struggles he has with his literary agent, played by comedic genius Steve Coogan. He’s one of those guys that can make you laugh with just the grouchy look on his face.
There is also a subtle story about relationships and what it means to have your dream woman.
I’m guessing after couples saw When Harry Met Sally, they debated those cliché conversations about whether or not a man and woman could be friends without it being sexual. In this, I can picture couples leaving and asking many other questions. Women that believe men are more interested if you play hard to get, and once the chase is over they lose interest. Men that are rich and famous might be able to easily snag their “dream girl,” but is she going to want to stay if the man just stops trying; or gets boring?
There are some colorful characters introduced. The first being the disbelieving brother (Chris Messina); in a poorly written screenplay, he would’ve spent the entire movie not believing it or peeking through the window like the landlord in Three’s Company. Yet when you quickly prove your point, it can make situations a lot more fun. Again, I can picture a studio head saying “We get Adam Sandler as the brother, and he’ll have lots of kinky suggestions on what you can do with this woman you created.”
The mom is played by the free-spirited Annette Bening (a former San Diegan). She is married to Antonio Banderas, who provides a lot of laughs.
I originally thought Dano’s character was the same stiff and awkward one he often plays. For this role, it’s exactly what was needed. He showed he can be charismatic earlier this year in the underrated Being Flynn. In this, he really shows some acting chops. As does his real-life girlfriend, who is from a long line of writer/directors (her grandmother is Elia Kazan). She’s got an amazing career ahead of her.
This movie didn’t blow me away and it has a few flaws; but in a time when you see so many horrible romantic comedies, this is a refreshing change of pace.
When you get tired of all the machine guns in the summer popcorn flicks, you can enjoy a relaxing Sunday afternoon watching this with your significant other. You’ll be glad you did.
It gets 3 stars out of 5.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun