Movie Review: Ruby Sparks (2012)

Posted: November 17, 2012 in Comedy

 

Calvin Weir-Fields (Paul Dano) is a literary prodigy.  In high school, Calvin wrote a best-selling novel.  Now the best Calvin can do is write novellas and short stories.  His last girlfriend, Lila, (Deborah Ann Woll) left him a few days after his father died, leaving Calvin in the care of a psychiatrist named Dr. Rosenthal .(Elliot Gould) Beside himself with angst over his writer’s block, Calvin has a dream about a red-haired girl from Dayton named Ruby Sparks. (Zoe Kazan) Calvin is so inspired by Ruby, that he starts writing her as a character in a novel, and to his great surprise, Ruby comes to life and is madly in love with him.  Surely this can’t be real, this has to be some manifestation of Calvin’s neurosis, his insecurity about writing, but alas it is not.  Everyone can see Ruby, she is real.  Calvin introduces Ruby to her brother, Harry (Chris Messina) who confirms she is real, but is not convinced of her origins.  Calvin decides to prove that Ruby is indeed a product of his own imagination by typing in his story that Ruby can speak French fluently, and she starts to speak French fluently.  He changes her language back to English, but Calvin realizes that he can control Ruby’s every action and thought.  He promises not to write another word about Ruby in his novel, and every day he doesn’t she gets a little freer, more independent,   more daring.  And the more daring Ruby gets, the farther she grows from Calvin.  Does Calvin resist the urge to tinker with his creation?  Does Ruby ever find out that she is a character in a novel?

This is a really good premise, perhaps done better in the movie Stranger Than Fiction, a very well-written and acted movie of Will Ferrell’s that almost no one saw.  Stranger Than Fiction was better because it told the story free of romantic entanglements, and that made it easier to tell the story of a fictional character come to life.  I see an homage to Woody Allen in Ruby Sparks as well, neurotic writer seeing a psychiatrist, Dano even looks like Allen a bit.  This could very well have been an early Woody Allen film.  The difference is Allen, in his early movies, had a deft touch with comedy, whereas this movie turns dark very quickly in ways that I didn’t expect when I saw the trailer.  I don’t think it had to turn dark, and that’s why I had a hard time liking the movie, is Calvin a poor schmuck who is slow in recovering from a bad relationship, or is he a control freak who ruined one relationship with a girl, and now seeks to ruin another one with a girl of his own creation? Ultimately, what sinks this movie is the ending, one fake ending, and then the actual ending that felt like it was cut and pasted from another movie.  Either this movie should have been a light, breezy romantic comedy about the transformational power of love or it should have been a drama about how even the most ideal relationships can break apart, it decides to try to be both, and it cannot do that.  Oddly enough Zoe  Kazan wrote this screenplay, I say oddly, because the focus is on Calvin the whole time, the story  is not told from Ruby’s perspective, which might have been more interesting.  Kazan has trouble modulating her character too, sometimes she speaks with childlike whimsy, other times she is an angry, bored shrew.  Dano does his best Woody Allen early on , and the more mature cast, Gould, Benning, Banderas and Steve Coogan  are only adequate..

Ruby Sparks:  The sparks turn to ashes too quickly.

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