In "Ruby Sparks" (104 min.), Calvin (played by Paul Dano) plays a writer who found great acclaim as a late teenager but now 10 years later is lonely and struggling with writer's block. In his dreams he meets the perfect girl whom he calls Ruby (played by Zoe Kazan), he starts writing about it, and then one morning Calvim wakes up only to find Ruby in his kitchen, fixing breakfast. It's a miracle, right? Is it the magic in the typewriter (Calvin types "Ruby speaks French" and a moment later she speaks French)? No explanation is given. However now that Ruby is alive and well, she does not always act EXACTLY like Calvin wants her to, and the temptation to run to the typewriter and fix every signle problem is great, but what would that do to their relationship in the long run? To give away more of the plot would ruin your viewing experience, you'll just have to see for yourself how it all plays out.
Several comments: the movie is intended as a romcom, and there are indeed many fine moments that made me smile. But the movie also examines some profounder issues that go to the very nature of the human race: free will (with the potential for making mistakes or worse) or no free will (at which point, what is the real value of the relationship you control?). Even though she's been in many other movies in her young career, in my opinion Zoe Kazan is THE break-out star of the movie, as not only did she write the movie's screenplay but her performance on the screen just oozes charm. Not that he doesn't do a good job, but I can't really say the same about Paul Dano (Kazan and Dano are also a couple in real life). And there are some real choice moments for Antonio Banderas and Annette Benning as Calvin's parents. Check out also Elliott Gould as Calvin's shrink.
In all, I really enjoyed this "little" movie quite a bit, and for me it proved to be perfect "counter-programming" in this never-ending summer of bigger (but not necessarily better) blockbuster movies. "Your Sister's Sister" and "Safety Not Guaranteed" were other such "little" movies I really enjoyed this summer. Meanwhile, "Ruby Sparks" is HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
Speaking as somebody who writes short stories as a hobby in addition to film reviews; "Ruby Sparks" is pretty spectacular. Just the idea of one of your stories becoming a reality is basically every author's dream. Unless you're a horror writer, then you might hope it never leaves the page. Thinking about that somehow happening is inspiring in itself though. If that was a guideline, to only write stories you think deserve to exist in the real world, then we'd have a very different literary back catalog.
Paul Dano brings yet another extremely relatable character to the screen. His ongoing struggle to come up with a good story really hits home hard as does his issues with women. Falling in love with your own creation seems a lot more reasonable than attempting to swim in the dating world. Dano's performance is gut-wrenching at times because you know where at least part of this story is going and it's not going to end well; an emotional breakdown is inevitable. Dano is also just as engrossing as ever while making simple emotions of depression, inspiration, love, and heartache seem like a grand spectacle.
Zoe Kazan is really superb, as well. Attempting to be the embodiment of somebody's dream girl probably isn't the easiest job, but Kazan seems to do it with ease. Her performance is at its best when Calvin realizes that whatever he writes about Ruby on his typewriter comes to life. Those moments are when the humor of the film is at its peak and when the sadder moments punch you in your chest a little bit harder. It probably helps that Dano and Kazan are a couple off-screen, but their chemistry and an incredibly well-written screenplay are what make the film as strong as it is.
For most, "Ruby Sparks" will probably just seem like this slightly better than average romantic comedy and that's fair; no one will fault you for that. But if you are a writer, if you have ever written a story for fun, have done that more than once, and/or have ever been compensated for this written work then "Ruby Sparks" will speak to you the way that it should.
While it isn't nearly as good, "Ruby Sparks" does slightly resemble "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" at times. With excellent and engaging performances from Paul Dano and Zoe Kazan, fantastic writing, and the ability to breathe a lot of life into a concept that may have been really absurd under different circumstances, "Ruby Sparks" is extraordinarily charming and should not be missed.
on August 13, 2013
Finally, a Pygmalion tale told from a female perspective. The guys appear to rule for awhile, but by the film's end the feminine and the male appreciation it has held the day and Ruby is so indispensable that Serendipity decides to give her another shot at the poor guy.
Years from now I predict that this film will join the long line of memorable romantic films. Have seen it five times in a month and have yet to tire of it.
on September 5, 2013
This is a film that asks you to relinquish a few of your beliefs for a while and also to suspend logic and reality for almost two hours. But it is well worth it.Besides,logic and reality are way too overrated.
"Ruby Sparks" is a delightful journey into the mind of a young man who is stricken not only with writer's block,but a broken heart as well. Paul Dano gives a beautifully understated performance and Zoe Kazan is simply remarkable and joyous as the enigmatic Ruby. Ms. Kazan also wrote the script for this highly unusual romantic comedy.
The chemistry between this young man and the woman who suddenly enters his life,Ruby,is amazing. Not just the characters, but the actors portraying them.
This is one of those rare films where telling even a small amount of the plot will serve as a spoiler. Just go out and rent it or buy it and ENJOY!.
on November 27, 2013
The ego, the narcissism, the myopia, the longing, the general failure to understand and complete the dance of courtship until the opportunity passes. And like all male driven narratives, the woman is there, quite literally in this instance, to act as unfailing and selfless support in his search for meaning and self. In short, she completes him.
Playful, joyful, and surreal the metaphors mix and I was never quite sure what was an extended hallucination and Jungian personality collapse and what was a playful imaginary realism. Perhaps the movie isn't sure either, but no matter what it was a lot of fun to watch. The female lead is glowing and ecstatic and changes so completely in her role as Ruby that she carries the film away over her shoulder and runs away with it. I stopped worrying about the plot holes and was just so eager to find out where she was taking us that I really enjoyed the film.
Great fun from two well connected young film makers. Enjoy!
on July 15, 2013
This movie so accurately illustrates the dynamics of my first marriage, that when my husband and I watched it together (near the end of our relationship) EVEN HE acknowledged that he was a lot like the main character! It is deep and chilling. An amazingly well-told story, artfully produced and exquisitely acted.
on March 6, 2014
Nerdy, lonely Calvin is considered a genius writer, though he has struggled to produce much since his breakout novel in his teens nearly 10 years ago. He lives in a large sparsely decorated all-white house, and has no friends other than his brother who urges him to get out more. He writes on his old manual typewriter, but is totally blocked until he starts to dream about a girl who inhabits his nights and gives him something to write about. One day, he discovers that she is real and is living with him. He has created the perfect girl, Ruby Sparks, out of his own mind and can't believe his luck. He soon discovers that whatever he writes determines her actions, and it is a heady power that he is afraid to wield, so he puts the book away and vies to write no more about her.
When their relationship starts to fray a bit, he is gives into the temptation to unlock the book and write a different scene for Ruby. His power to manipulate her and meld her into what he wants her to be is disturbing, and leads to the explosive, climactic scene in the movie, which I won't spoil.
Zoe Kazan, as Ruby, is delightful and quirky, fun-loving and cute. It is difficult to imagine an actress who could have played this part better. Calvin is serious and emotive, but somewhat annoying. The premise of being able to mold and alter someone else's personality to suit your own whim is interesting and daunting and certainly thought provoking. Though the movie was described as "rom com", that seems a shallow categorization. There is some comedy, and there is romance, but it is more of an intellectual drama than the romcom genre conveys.
on January 12, 2015
Delightfully different, cute, thought provoking, sweet and yet pulls at your heart strings.
There is a lot going on in this movie. First off, this movie was written by Zoe Kazan, who of course is the utterly adorable star of the movie. It is a romcom and yet, it really brings up some real questions. Paul Dano plays a famous young writer, who was a one hit wonder and has had writers block for years, and who is a recluse and hopeless when it comes to love. His therapist suggests he do a writing exercise, and the girl he dreams up is the perfect woman for him. (Of course Zoe Kazan is one of the most adorable women for anyone). And as he gets obsessed in creating this woman of his dreams, somehow, his passion turns into the real thing and Zoe Kazan materializes. She is perfect for him. But what should be a great thing has problems of its own, and as she becomes the vibrant woman of his dreams she takes on real life and suddenly Paul Dano is having to rewrite her life to keep her where he needs her. Until................................I don't want to spoil it. But, the performances by Zoe Kazan and Paul Dano were great performances. And Annette Benning and Antonio Banderas are in it as well, playing wonderful roles as Paul Dano's mother and stepfather.
This is such an unusual and delightfully quirky movie, but the reason I gave it four stars is it had a very Twilight Zone twist to it that suddenly made it very un-romcom. Don't get me wrong, I applaud Zoe Kazan for writing such a creative and original movie, and I really liked it, but just go into knowing that if you are looking for a fun date movie romcom, this one may bring up some issues that turn your date night into a head scratching night muttering, "Whoa, I didn't see that coming." I will definitely watch it again. I think this movie brings up a great issue about a "perfect relationship" and holding on too tight and being possessive. The old saying, "If you really love something then let it go and if it comes back to you then you know it was real." Zoe Kazan's role is truly delightful and enchanting. But if you are looking for something that is as sweet as her movie, What If, just be prepared.
on February 9, 2016
Parts of this movie spark--Paul Davo's Calvin is well characterized, as is Zoe's Ruby. The magical realism is perfectly presented through the brother--though more people should have been brought in here. The turn to the dark side, though, by Calvin unravels the plot a bit. While every writer struggles with the characters she creates, this struggle becomes too dark for the needs of the movie. Yes, Ruby needs to break away; yes, Calvin needs to grow. But the events that lead to this are not logical within the story. Perhaps if more had been revealed about Calvin's ex that justifies his later actions, they could make more sense. Without that though, they seem forced. In the end, I wanted to see Calvin run away.
on April 15, 2013
Ruby Sparks (2012) is a romantic comedy directed by Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris.
A gifted but lonely young writer, Calvin (Paul Dano), dreams up the perfect romantic companion, Ruby, as the subject of his next novel. Magically, Ruby (Zoe Kazan) begins to physically materialize into Calvin's life as the novel progresses, much to his astonishment. The two fall desperately in love but when Ruby begins to demonstrate a mind of her own, Calvin, a control freak, discovers he can manipulate her behavior by just changing the manuscript, leading to comical mixed results.
As a huge fan of legendary director, Elia Kazan, I was initially drawn to this film because his granddaughter, Zoe Kazan, is the lead actress and screenwriter. Kazan and Dano, partners in real life, give nice performances. Zoe's just as cute as a button and as spunky as her grandfather. The talented cast includes Annette Bening, Elliot Gould, and Antonio Bandaris.
Ruby Sparks is a delightful little film with some wonderful messages about relationships and life's priorities. Bravo, Zoe! Grandpa would be proud.