I never spoke to directors Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris when they were making the rounds to support their first film, “Little Miss Sunshine.” I was aware of them from their music video work, and I enjoyed “Sunshine,” but at that point, our paths just never ended up crossing.
This time, I made sure to set time aside so we could discuss their new film, “Ruby Sparks,” which opens tomorrow in limited release. I wanted to talk to them about the way pressure to match their first film’s remarkable success played into the length of time it took them to decide on a follow-up. I wanted to talk to them about working with Paul Dano and Zoe Kazan, and how they defined the different relationships they had with Kazan as a writer and as an actor. And I absolutely wanted to talk to them about one of the key choices made in the film, one that may throw some viewers.
It’s also always interesting to see what the dynamic is, even in conversation, between co-directors. It’s still not a common relationship, and Dayton and Faris are very unusual anyway, since most of the co-directors working are brothers or long-time writing partners. In conversation, there’s such a connected back and forth between them that I have to assume that bleeds into their professional dynamic as well.
And that choice? We got into it a bit, and I think it’s one of those things that helps define the nature of a film. In something like “Big,” where you have to make a magical leap of faith, they explain it via the magic fortune-telling machine. In “Groundhog Day,” they specifically never explain what happens to make Bill Murray drop into his endless loop of days. When a studio is involved, they will most likely push for some sort of explanation, whether it’s magical wishing powder or a lightning strike or an enchanted coin, and ultimately, all of those things end up feeling like an excuse, a manufactured explanation that exists merely to be brushed over quickly. I like the “Groundhog Day” solution, where the film simply accepts this magical moment as part of the story, and that’s how “Ruby Sparks” handles things. Dayton and Faris explained their decision, and I think it makes a lot of sense.
I’ll have a review for the film later this evening, and you can also look back at yesterday and my interview with Paul Dano and Zoe Kazan.
“Ruby Sparks” opens in limited release tomorrow.