Movie review: Ruby Sparks

August 6, 2012 – Here’s a shocker. I am drawn to movies about writers just as my co-workers are drawn to the coffee pot on Monday mornings.

That’s probably because I find it enjoyable to take a peek inside their fictional lives, I like to draw comparisons about the way I do things vs. the way the fictional writer does things on screen, and with a few rare exceptions, they usually fascinate me.

“Ruby Sparks” immediately grabbed my attention because it had the writer element, along with an interesting twist that I haven’t seen since the days of Charlie Kaufman’s “Adaptation”.

Directed by Jonathan Dalton and Valerie Faris, a husband and wife team who gave us “Little Miss Sunshine”, and written by Zoe Kazan, who pulls double duty as Ruby, the film tells the story of Calvin (Paul Dano), a young successful writer who has suddenly stumbles upon a serious case of writer’s block. Not only that, his romantic life is in shambles, he has no real friends to speak of, and his only companions are his dog and his brother. Struggling with all of the above makes him a frequent visitor of his psychiatrist, a juicy role played by and made for Elliot Gould.

Calvin’s breakthrough comes when he creates the perfect character one sleepless night, a muse of sorts he names Ruby. When Calvin finds Ruby in his living room a few days later, he is bowled over that his actions created a living person.

“Ruby Sparks” is the first screenplay for Zoe Kazan, and it isn’t surprising that it is successful. Her parents, Nicholas Kazan and Robin Swicord, are both screenwriters responsible for 22 Hollywood hits between them, and her grandfather is the director Elia Kazan, one of the most honored and influential directors in Hollywood, who gave us such classics as “On the Waterfront”, “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof,” and “East of Eden”, to name a few. That’s a good gene pool.

Creatively written and well-acted, the film isn’t without its flaws – I wasn’t 100 percent sold on the ending and think Kazan could have done a little more there – but it certainly is entertaining. Besides perfection is boring, so a little flaw makes it all the more interesting.

The chemistry between Kazan and Dano, also a real life couple, is evident, as well, and the supporting cast Annette Bening and Antonio Banderas as Calvin’s mother and step-father add comedy and charm, and really give the viewer a clue as to where Calvin gets his insecurities.

At the end of the film, the audience – a mixed crowd of young and old – gave it a huge applause, which speaks volumes, and is certainly something I’m not used to witnessing. It just proves that “Ruby Sparks” is an enjoyable way to share a movie going experience with your friend, family member, companion or significant other.

The story isn’t rom-com enough to turn off a male audience – they may actually get a kick out of the idea of controlling a potential love interest – yet it has enough romance to charm the pickiest of female rom-com fans.

Take a chance on “Ruby Sparks”. You won’t be disappointed.


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A girl trying to live the dream.

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