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Sep 16, 2013

Review: Ruby Sparks (2012)

           Paul Dano, Zoe Kazan, Chris Messina, Annette Bening, Antonio Banderas, Steve Coogan, Elliott Gould, Deborah Ann Woll, Alia Shawkat, Toni Trucks and Aasif Mandvi


                     Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris


                 Ruby Sparks is written by Zoe Kazan who is the granddaughter of legendary filmmaker Elia Kazan. Not just that but Kazan stars in it as well with her ex-boyfriend Paul Dano, she has come up with one of the most smartest romantic dramedies in years. A concept so basic that we often overlook it in our life even though it is of grave importance and probably the cause of most of our broken relationships. Ruby Sparks is directed by the duo who made the hit indie "Little Miss Sunshine". This film revolves around the character of Calvin Weir-Fields (Dano) who is a young writer. Struggling to come up with good ideas for his new novel, he is suffering from writers block. His previous book was a big success and he aims to repeat that. After a written assignment given to him by his therapist Dr. Rosenthal (Gould), Calvin has a dream about a girl and is inspired to write about her. He names her Ruby Sparks (Kazan) and is literally falling in love with her. Obsessed to a point that his house is filled with articles and clothing of women which his brother Harry (Messina) and sister-in-law Susie (Trucks) notice as well. One morning, Calvin gets the shock of his life when he sees Ruby walking and talking like a real person in his kitchen. He believes there is something wrong with him at first but then other people can see her as well. Ruby isn't someone in his imagination anymore, she is actually real. And she is not just real, she believes Calvin is her boyfriend and things starts affecting her, she cries, she gets upset and they even make up. Days passes and Calvin eventually introduces her to his mother Gertrude (Bening) and boyfriend Mort (Banderas). That is where troubles arises when Calvin grows jealous of Ruby's closeness to his family and his own self-involved and gloomy nature affects Ruby who loves being happy and joyful.

                 Ruby Sparks isn't an entirely refined work but it is Kazan whose ingenuity cannot simply dampen due to that. This movie doesn't have any issues whatsoever and is able to carry out what it hopes for and achieves a status that sets it apart from other movies of its kind. Don't watch it expecting a silly, fuzzy, sunny romantic comedy because it ends up being much more than that. The basic thing that Ruby Sparks first tackles is the creative process. Calvin is a writer, young but well known and acclaimed for his very first book. He is struggling with his latest work, has a therapist and doesn't really have a life. He has a brother with whom he sometime spends time with and a mother who he rarely see. His struggle to write is indirectly due to the block that is there in his own life. Writers needs inspiration, a vision of some sort and it depends on their state of mind at that very moment. Calvin gets that through his dream where he sees a girl, created by his mind and resonant of exactly the kind of girl he wants to be with. Once he is inspired by her, he begins writing about her his way. He creates this entire human being through his mind and his words and believes he knows everything about 'her'. Ruby somehow becomes a real person, she is alive and very much like he thought. Calvin has the ability to write about her, interpret her his way and Ruby becomes that, she does exactly what Calvin wants her to. This is exactly how relationships are when in the beginning, everything seems good, you love each other and it is all fresh and new. You are smitten by each other and it is basically your idea or perception about them and not really the person himself that makes you feel so good being in a relationship with that particular human being. It is only when time passes, you start discovering things about them and that person in little ways turns out to be different from what you hoped for that things starts to get worse. This is mostly the case boys has for the girls when just the idea of a gorgeous girl seems to be everything but it shouldn't be that way.

                 As Calvin's brother in the movie tells him that women are mysterious, things may change and advices him to be careful. Women needs to be understood, loved, cared for and talked to. Idealizing someone only makes them reduce to an idea and not actually a whole human being. We are all mysterious creatures, we are all different. You can never meet a person 100% like you or someone who will meet all of your demands about them. You fall in love with people for who they are and with time you discover them more. Expectations and ideas about a person can only set you on a course that will always be filled with nothing but disappointments. Try to understand a person, see them for who they are. Men and women both are fragile in many ways, human beings are suppose to be like that. Men has their ego and women has their emotions. Kazan avoids going too much for on-the-nose commentary, neither does she creates the kind of atmosphere in the film that is going to appeal to only girls. It is a tight rope that she walks on but somehow she is able to pull it off. While she made a movie basically about relationships and the role of both men and women in destroying them, she presents a very creative approach in occasionally dwelling into related things without making it an uneven mess or establishing nothing while presenting too much ideas. Ruby Sparks is at once a fantasy, romantic comedy/drama, a fable, it is a cautionary tale and a perfect character study. The basic plot of creating/controlling a person might seem too horror movie cliche but it is used for a good reason here. I could occasionally sense glimpses of Jonze or Gondry here because they usually make these sorts of movies. I think Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris did a good job in presenting a movie that Kazan wanted. Kazan herself knew what she wanted so the result is confident filmmaking. Actors like Chris Messina, Annette Bening, Antonio Banderas and Steve Coogan are pretty nice in their appearances. Bening is a free spirited mom, the boyfriend played by Banderas is a free spirited soul himself. Their beautiful home and lifestyle is different but represents clearly for who they are. In contrast to that, Calvin's home feels dull and boring which is understandable. Messina, whom you might have seen in many movies is, well, given a nicer than before role. Harry is a good brother, friendly and very understanding. Loved his chemistry with Calvin, the actors too are able to convey that.

                 Paul Dano in one of his better performances since There Will be Blood and Little Miss Sunshine is able to play Calvin quite convincingly. Zoe Kazan shines in her role, while not actually beautiful per say, she is radiant like her character. I loved her chemistry with Dano, which is not surprising since they were in a relationship in real life and she wrote the character of Calvin keeping Dano in her mind at that time. Ruby Sparks is able to carry out a genuine character arc while providing us an excellent commentary on things it sets out to shed some light on. The part where Calvin reveals the truth to Ruby, showing her how he can control her has to be one of the most devastating sequences in a movie last year. Ruby Sparks is both thought provoking and emotionally powerful, you can learn a lot from it and you can feel the pain of someone who longs desperately to be loved for who they are. A must see film.

Grade: B+