Directors: Jonathan Dayton, Valerie Faris
Writer: Zoe Kazan
Stars: Paul Dano, Zoe Kazan, Annette Bening
Comedy, Fantasy, Romance
“Write what you know,” is an oft-used axiom for starting writers. Author CJ Cherryh often says you need to know your characters well enough that you can sit down at a dinner table with them and have a conversation and know what’s on that dinner table. Calvin muses, “The words aren't coming from you but through you....” This is a great example of how a writer can get so in tune with a fully-actualized character that they believe they’re more of a transcriptionist than a storyteller.
Calvin Weir-Fields isn’t a starting writer. At nineteen, he wrote a brilliant classic and has been blocked since. His therapist suggests a simple exercise, which opens Calvin up, but creates a real woman, Ruby Sparks.
This is one side of the writer’s nightmare coin: What if something I create becomes real? The other side: What if I get sucked up in a fantasy world? Of course, sometimes it’s difficult to know which is which.
Dano and Kazan do a spectacular job of convincing you they are Calvin and Ruby. It helps that in real life, they actually are partners; however, don’t discount the pair’s talent. Kazan’s appeared in twenty films, including It’s Complicated and The Valley of Elah. Dano’s got 30 titles, including Cowboys and Aliens and There Will Be Blood.
Ruby starts out your typical chick-flick, but turns dark soon enough as Ruby becomes a real girl. Says Kazan: “I was interested in talking about what happens in a relationship when one person’s independence threatens the other and control issues arise.”
Pygmalion stories abound. Every year, you see some male-driven film which tries to create the perfect woman for the male protagonist. Ruby stands out because it’s a clever mix of the old story with an inside view of the writer’s world, somewhat reminiscent of Finding Forrester and The Magic of Belle Isle. And, a woman who understands how it feels to be controlled and pulled in the wake of a man’s life writes it.
For the most part, I was entranced. I saw myself as well as many of my other writer friends in the story.
I was a little bit flummoxed when I walked out and heard two women in the restroom talking, “Are writers really like that?” It surprised me that someone would be so culturally-bereft as to not know a writer or two in person.
Sets and music were beautiful. On a gray, rainy day, they took me to a house full of light and the beach at Big Sur. Nick Urata’s original score was a lovely accompaniment, which didn’t intrude on the action or the dialogue. The soundtrack would actually make an inspirational score for writing.
The only anachronistic portion of the film was Calvin writing on a manual typewriter. I found myself shaking my head every time he sat down at the desk and created letter-perfect drafts from that machine. Ruby takes place today. Who really writes like that? Then again, anyone who knows me well can attest to the fact that even with modern spell check, I am the Typo Queen.
While I thoroughly enjoyed Ruby Sparks, I’m still undecided whether I would own the Blu-Ray or not. I am not certain if it falls into the category of Finding Forrester and The Magic of Belle Isle, which are films that can be seen over and over.
Rebecca McFarland Kyle, August 2012