Recently released from FOX, Ruby Sparks is the story of a boy and a girl. But it’s oh so much more than that. The boy, Calvin (Paul Dano, Little Miss Sunshine), is a young, best selling author who is struggling to find inspiration to repeat his success. At the advice of his therapist, Dr. Rosenthal (Elliot Gould, MASH), he writes about a girl that can accept him as he is. And then the girl, Ruby (Zoe Kazan, Dano’s real life girlfriend and the writer of this film), appears in his apartment.
Now, Calvin is not going crazy. At least, he doesn’t appear to be. His brother, Harry (Chris Messina, The Mindy Project, Damages), can see her, too, as can everyone else. Once viewers are able to suspend that disbelief, one can really get invested in the tale of this couple, who are made for each other, on one side, quite literally.
But no one is perfect. As much as Ruby is the girl that Calvin imagines he wants to be with, she is also a fully developed person, not just a two dimensional figure on paper. Which means, she has a mind of her own, and can do things that bug Calvin, or make him feel down on himself. Calvin has the power to change Ruby at any time just by whipping his type writer back out. It isn’t too long before he gives in to temptation and does just that.
One can tell that Ruby Sparks is written by a woman. Rather than rewriting Ruby for sexual purposes, an option brought up by Harry, but quickly dismissed by the more sensitive Calvin, he just tweaks her personality so that she is devoted to him, and he gets rids of things about her he finds annoying. However, when Calvin begins to remove layers, even with the best of intentions, because, after all, she is his creation, and so it could be argued that he has a right to make adjustments, he also erases the essence that makes Ruby Ruby. She no longer has free will, nor is she the person he wanted to be with. This is a case of over-thinking things.
Ruby Sparks really makes the audience think, too. Surely, many people have dreamed up a scenario such as this, but how many have taken time to really explore what being in this situation would mean? How many consider all the implications and nuanced rules that would go hand in hand with the occurrence? Kazan proves her talents as a writer quite handily, really fleshing out everything in a very believable way.
And does anyone truly want what they consider to be the perfect girl? Not only would this be boring, but how would Calvin ever be challenged to grow? If all he wants is an idea of a woman, the internet and blowup dolls exist. No, he wants a companion, and that means he must take the good with that bad. Those are the facts of life.
All television them song references aside, Ruby Sparks is a fascinating, smart movie that is very enjoyable, but also so much more than mindless entertainment. Buoyed by an excellent supporting cast, each with wonderful featured moments, that includes Toni Trucks (Made in Jersey), Alia Shawkat (Arrested Development), Deborah Ann Woll (True Blood), Steve Coogan (Tropic Thunder), Aasif Mandvi (The Daily Show), Annette Benning (The Kids Are All Right), and an amazing turn by Antonio Banderas (Puss in Boots), this is a movie that begs repeat viewings.
In fact, if one stops the film about two minutes before the end, I would consider it a near-perfect movie. There’s a tag I’m not a fan of; I’d prefer if the next to last scene served as the ending. Others may disagree.
The special features, on the other hand, at least the ones included on the review copy I got, leave much to be desired. There are three featurettes of only a few minutes each in length that are pretty repetitive, just praising those involved. It is pointed out that not only are Dano and Kazan a couple, but so are the directors, Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris (both Little Miss Sunshine). But that’s about the only thing interesting gleaned from the scant extras. Hopefully, there will be another release in the future that packages a bit more, because, the impression I get is, the story behind the story is probably pretty neat, as well.
Ruby Sparks is available now on DVD and Blu-ray.