My initial thoughts on Ruby Sparks?
I’ve officially added a typewriter to my Christmas wish list. And Elliot Gould would be the greatest therapist ever… how can we make this happen more? Paul Dano as a romantic lead -never thought I’d see the day. He looks like the loner writer who can’t quite get a handle on the real, scary world outside his window, and so it somehow works. Chris Messina and Paul Dano look nothing alike… This fact cannot be overstated. Annette Bening brings this intensity and life to every character she plays, and I adore her for that.
Now that we’ve gotten those out of the way…
Wow. Can I just say wow?
On the surface, Ruby Sparks is this sweetly bizarre little movie about a boy who wishes his dream girl into existence. It’s the story of a writer whose character is so real to him that she becomes real to everyone else. (There were hints of 2006’s Stranger than Fiction along the way.) It’s the story of a family worried for their slightly-off-his-rocker son.
Zoe Kazan (who’s also the writer of this film) seems poised to take over the Zooey Deschanel/Kirsten Dunst/Natalie Portman manic pixie dream girl mantle. Her character, especially at the beginning, seems slightly plastic. Too perfect.
But that’s the point.
If you’re going to create your dream girl, she better be perfect.
But here’s where the movie takes a (really brilliant) turn. The story’s not about Calvin trying to explain exactly how this beautiful girl turned up in his life. He lets his brother in on the secret, but everyone else in his life seems thrilled and a little relieved that he finally has someone. They welcome her into their homes and into their lives without a second thought. If Calvin loves you, we love you. He locks away the pages, determined to never write another word about her again. She can stay, just as she is.
But Ruby becomes real.
She becomes human. She wants her own life. Her own friends. Her own time. She doesn’t just want her life to be folded up into Calvin’s life. And Calvin comes up against his deepest, darkest fear. What if no one, not even his own creation, wants to be with him? He still has all the power, though. So he keeps editing her. Perfect keeps changing, like a moving target, and he’s trying desperately to keep up. And so we watch as he devolves into a controlling, narcissistic freak show…
I won’t go into spoilers here, but one scene in particular has enough emotional trauma to make you want to throw up. But it serves its purpose well. We’re all human. Trying to control someone to make them perfect is the fastest way to destroy a relationship.
There really is something to that old adage – If you love something, set it free.
Ruby Sparks isn’t the sparkliest of summer films. For all of its magic and suspension of disbelief it requires, there’s something real and raw under the surface.
Love requires faith. Trust. The freedom to choose to be with this person. Or not.
I think Zoe Kazan is on to something…
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