Sunday, July 22, 2012

“Ruby Sparks”–Movie Review



This weekend in my movie class, we had a bonus screening of the new romantic comedy “Ruby Sparks”, starring Paul Dano and Zoe Kazan (who also wrote the screenplay and co-produced).



When a lonely author with writer’s block conjures up a female character he falls in love with, he’s surprised to learn she’s real – but can their love last?



Calvin (Dano) is currently seeing a psychiatrist (Elliott Gould) to help him work through his writer’s block.  Barely 30, Calvin published his first novel a decade ago; a huge hit, he was never able to equal or surpass its success in subsequent attempts.  Not helping matters any is the fact that he was dumped by his girlfriend right after his father died, which further served to immobilize him.  Dreaming of this lovely young woman he’s imagined as a new character named Ruby Sparks (Kazan), he tells his shrink about her.  As a way of getting him back behind the typewriter, the psychiatrist suggests Calvin start writing about her. 

Finding that the prose comes easily to him, Calvin writes about Ruby, obsessing over her even more with increasingly frequent and realistic dreams.  One day, he awakes to find her living in his house!  Convinced he’s going mad, he takes her out in public – but once he realizes that other people can see her, too, he’s relieved to discover that he’s not going crazy and immediately succumbs to Ruby’s charms.  One curious thing he learns is the fact that anything he writes about her will come true – as a result, he can get her to do just about anything merely by writing it on his typewriter. 

Things take a dark turn when Calvin brings Ruby to a party, only to find her flirting with the host.  Upon returning home, they start to argue right away and it is then that Calvin finally confesses to her that he can control her thoughts, actions and emotions by writing them on his old-fashioned manual typewriter, which infuriates Ruby.  But when the pressure of the responsibility of having Ruby subject to his every whim and whimsy becomes overwhelming, will Calvin and Ruby be able to sustain their relationship or must they somehow find a way for it to end?



Part romantic comedy and part fantasy, “Ruby Sparks” is a delightful, charming and amusing new film from the very creative mind of Zoe Kazan (granddaughter of controversial director Elia Kazan).  While probably intended as a work to showcase her acting ability – which clearly has an enormous range, judging from her performance in this work – “Ruby Sparks” also has the side benefit of showcasing Kazan’s writing talent.  The fact that she can do both so incredibly well speaks of how enormously gifted this young woman is.  Hopefully, she can produce many more screenplays like this one without suffering Calvin’s writer’s block. 

The cast is utterly perfect here, including Annette Bening as Calvin’s mother and Antonio Banderas as her new love interest.  Since this is one of those small independent films with no bankable stars and likely a miniscule advertising budget, any chance it may have at success will probably come through word of mouth.  With that in mind, I will gladly assist in sharing how wonderfully lovely this movie is and urge you to see it as soon as it opens.  Its screenplay has been crafted with an excellent structure and a deeply satisfying ending. 

After the screening, the class had a brief discussion about the movie.  The majority of the class seemed to enjoy the film as well, including our instructor.  One observation a couple of students had was the fact that “Ruby Sparks” reminded them of a Woody Allen film, in the best ways possible (except that here, the action appears to take place in California, not New York City or Europe).  I would tend to agree with this assessment with the exception that while Allen’s movies have more of a tendency to be laugh-out-loud funny, the humor in “Ruby Sparks” tends to be more on the droll side.  Either way, it is a pleasure and a film well worth your time to see at least once.   


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