Release: Wednesday, July 25, 2012 (limited)
I knew it. Ruby Sparks as a person WAS too good to be true. Damn. I wonder if Kay Jeweler’s will understand when I return this promise ring. . .
Zoe Kazan is mesmerizing as the titular character Ruby, and well, basically she makes this film really jive. I mean, from the purple tights all the way up to her dazzling blue eyes — she’s a colorful, enigmatic young woman who is very easy to like. As an actress. As a writer, I think I might like her even more. Her debut, Ruby Sparks, is a modest and off-kilter story of an accomplished writer who dreams of a girl and ends up writing about her, only to one day wake up and find the girl has come to life and is in his home making breakfast.
I suppose the right thing to do here would be to tell you it would help to have an open mind when watching since the film takes a little bit of a leap of faith in its storytelling. Then again, that trick might also be the business of many motion pictures but if you see this, or already have, then you should know what I’m talking about. And that’s okay by the way, because if, like me, you enjoy films like this you must not have too much trouble taking leaps. In fact you’re actively seeking them out when dealing with anything that comes from the producers of that great little adventure, Little Miss Sunshine.
Jonathon Dayton and Valerie Faris weave Kazan’s lovely script into a stylish and whimsical rom-com about a young author (Paul Dano) who’s risen to fame quickly but is having trouble in his current writing projects. When success hits him for a second time, and his fictional girlfriend comes to life, it hits him in a way he does not expect. As the drama around his situation with Ruby begins to build we get very invested in the social ineptitude of Calvin: he has no friends, his relationship with his parents are strained and he seems to do little else other than read and write (I guess this part might make sense since his first book went on to being a New York Times Bestseller). We can all identify with these little growing pains, but where we cannot is with his manufactured relationship.
When exactly do you tell this person that you’re dating that they’re really just a product of your writing, your imagination? How do you even start to describe that? Calvin doesn’t do it well, of course.
This plot reminds me a lot of this excellent little book I read a while ago, ‘Being Written,’ (by William Conescu) that tells the story from the second-person point of view. Reading through that book, you feel like you’re completely in control of things and, unless you’ve cheated and sought out the last few pages of this book, you have no clue what’s about to happen to “you.” It’s a very unique point of view to take even despite the book’s somewhat generic premise. Conescu’s premise is not important, but if you were to take that concept of someone being written about and combine it with the visual element — a film by Marc Foster called Stranger Than Fiction does a similar thing where a character one day realizes his life is not in his control but in that of a real-life author — then you would get something akin to Calvin and Ruby’s quaint story.
Their story is something of a wonder. Like many relationships — you know what, forget that…drop the ‘many’ and insert ‘all’ — all relationships go through phases. This film intimately explores some pitfalls of being in one — control, obsession, jealousy, insecurity and especially, the tendency to idealize the object of our affection once we get to know them more. Those are typical struggles, yes. But Calvin literally has the power to physically change his girlfriend and thus, his life.
I enjoyed the film’s playfulness with that element. It really took advantage of its unique storyline, and when Ruby appears in his life the ensuing ten or twenty minutes are so much fun to watch I can’t remember being so entranced by a couple this underground (that is to say, it’s as fun watching their relationship develop as it might be to see Tom Hanks and Marion Cotillard together, as an example). They are no big box-office contending actors but they make one sweet couple and the combination of Kazan’s well-written script and some sensitive direction helps push the film to its highest potential. In short, it’s an excellent follow-up to Little Miss Sunshine. I especially appreciated Kazan’s performance. She is extremely cute, and her personality is as carefree and almost. . . . just almost. . . . too good to be true.
And yeah, that silent kid from Miss Sunshine, he ain’t too bad here either. It is good to see that Dwayne no longer “hates everyone.” He may still love Nietzsche, but he now loves Ruby as well.
Recommendation: I highly recommend. If you are a fan (yes I’m going to reference it again) of Little Miss Sunshine, then this is next on your list.
Running Time: 103 mins.
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