Out of the ashes of superheroes and the mid-summer slump rises a gem of a film—RUBY SPARKS. Paul Dano stars as a lonely bestselling wunderkind facing writer’s block. When he meets the girl of his dreams (Zoe Kazan), he realizes she is actually his fictional creation come to life. Real-life couple Dano and Kazan bring their characters to vibrant life. Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris direct Kazan’s smart, witty script with a quirky, light hand. Nick Urata underscores this magical flight of fancy with a score of heartbreaking poignancy and high drama.
Urata has been building a name for himself in Hollywood as the frontman for DeVotchka and as a composer. For RUBY SPARKS, Urata mixes a Baroque sensibility with contemporary harmonies and a tinge of Middle Eastern mysticism.
Tremolo strings and a dramatic brass underscore the terror of the blank page in tracks like “Creation” and “Miserable”. The arpeggiated figures take on an even more furious life as Calvin discusses the thrill of his creation, “Ruby Sparks”. Steadily pulsating lower string quarter notes and a staccato violin line form the backbone of “Writer’s Block.”
In tracks like “Inspiration” and “I Was Waiting For You,” a wordless female vocal line brings a purity and innocence to that elusive voice of the muse. In “Inseparable,” a staccato clarinet, flute and bass perform a tangled waltz as the French horn growls its line and the muse duets with itself in a manic, Lakmé-inspired duet.
The high point of the album is “You’re a Genius,” a six-minute tone poem incorporating many of the primary themes on a journey through through the dramatic, emotional highs and lows of people rushing toward a relationship flameout. The ethereal strings of “The Past Released Her” capture the damage of post-relationship heartbreak. Adam Peters (composer of SAVAGES) adds a yearning cello solo to “She Came to Me” and “Can We Start Over.”
Two of the tracks include snippets of dialogue. I’m not usually a big fan of dialogue on soundtracks. But Kazan’s words are so effective and so true, they provide lovely bookends to the album. The five source cues surprisingly don’t distract from the listening experience. However, while these cues are enjoyable, they will probably mean more to fans of the film.
“Falling in love is an act of magic and so is writing,” says Calvin. I fell in love with RUBY SPARKS and with Urata’s jewel of a score. For a cynical old bachelor like me, that is magic.