Ruby Sparks, 2012, USA
It’s extremely rare for me to miss a movie in theatres without willingly choosing to skip it. I missed Ruby Sparks in theatres because it played at a theatre that isn’t often the sole carrier of a film. As a result, I almost never check the listings for the theatre – and missed it.
So it was with baited breath that I waited for the DVD release so I could rent it on Apple TV. It came out this week, so I rented it, and I’m happy to say that it was worth the wait.
Calvin (Paul Dano) is the author of an acclaimed novel. It’s been a decade since he wrote it and he hasn’t published anything since. He’s isolated, socially stunted, and suffers from a severe case of writer’s block. When his therapist (Elliot Gould) suggests that he write a short piece about meeting someone who likes his dog, he writes about a woman named Ruby Sparks (Zoe Kazan). He falls in love with this idealized character…and she comes to life. At first he thinks he’s going crazy but when other people, including his brother, Harry (Chris Messina) see her, he realizes that she IS real. But Ruby is a human being with feelings, needs and wants and an actual relationship is very different from a fantasy on paper. Calvin and Ruby’s relationship grows rocky and Calvin tries desperately to bring back his idealized version of Ruby.
The premise itself was very interesting. Calvin isn’t a particularly likable character: he’s selfish, and completely unable to maintain a successful relationship with a woman. He does terrible things in his attempt to gain his “ideal” partner. Essentially the film was about the dangers of idealizing people – especially your partner. No person can stand up to fantasy, and relationships take compromise and work.
I did feel that Ruby did venture into the “Manic Pixie Dream Girl” trope, despite the fact that Kazan, who also wrote the film, claims otherwise. That’s not to say her character isn’t developed well: she is, and I appreciated the way Kazan made Ruby grow beyond Calvin’s ideals. I don’t mind this trope much when it is done well, and I thought Ruby Sparks was a very well-done film, for the most part. I think that it’s a clever acknowledgement of the trope, because Ruby is, quite literally, a figment of the protagonist’s imagination!
One issue I had with the film was its ending. It remains open for interpretation, but I didn’t feel it fit with the direction the film was going. It felt tacked on, and really left me feeling deflated. I would have preferred it if the film had ended five minutes before it did. I think that would have been a more natural and satisfying ending.