In “Ruby Sparks,” Calvin Weir-Fields (Paul Dano) had the misfortune of being a child prodigy. At a tender young age, he published a towering work of fiction akin to “Catcher in the Rye,” and ever since then, he has had to grapple with crippling writer’s block, social anxiety and girls who only want to sleep with him because they read his book in high school (poor Calvin!).
His therapist (Elliot Gould) ostensibly commands a handsome fee for telling him what every writer already knows about writer’s block — just start writing!
And so he does. He conjures up Ruby Sparks (Zoe Kazan) an apparition of a girl he saw in his dream. She’s manic, she’s pixie, she’s a painter who loves to cook and ride her bike. She’s everything an intellectual hipster could want, and more. Calvin continues punching out his story, until one day Ruby appears in the flesh and bangs.
Calvin shares his incredible discovery — and newfound power — with his brother (and only friend).
His brother (Chris Messina) has some of the funniest lines in the movie discussing the differences between men and women. He forces Calvin to join him at the gym, informing him, “this is how we’re going to get you to look like a man.” Another highlight includes this bit about his wife in which his brother explains, “Women are fucked up, man. Like Susie, sometimes she’s mean, like really mean. For no reason.”
As Calvin’s brother continues to hilariously and haphazardly explain the mysteries of women, Calvin discovers he has the ability to control Ruby with the stroke of a key.
Instead of being a good guy, or a good boyfriend, his instincts as a good writer take over and he begins to edit. He makes her speak French, become clingy, and then less so…. And you might have guessed that each change brings with it unintended and disastrous consequences.
Ultimately, he reveals his terrible writer’s secret and sets Ruby free. The last 30 minutes of the film are excruciating ones. The ending is simply terrible.
What was once subtle, light, rom-com fare suddenly switches to a melodramatic, over-the-top, hysterical tone. The abrupt shift is perhaps best represented by the fact that earlier in the film, when he forces Ruby to speak French as an experiment, she merrily continues cooking muttering “n’est–ce pas” and “oiu”. But in the conclusion, when he commands her to fluency, all of the sudden she is suddenly conscience of the weird thing she’s doing and freaks out. Why not before?
Until the ending, which unfortunately closed out the movie in a negative and ineffective way, I kind of enjoyed the film.
Paul Dano finally looks like an adult (mazel tov, Paul!). Zoe Kazan was pleasant as Ruby, and is also responsible for executive producing and writing the script.
Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris, formally of “Little Miss Sunshine” fame, directed the film. Lastly, the supporting cast is excellent with Annette Benning and Antonio Banderas as lovable hippie parents.
The aforementioned Chris Messina was hilarious—and Steve Coogan as Calvin’s lecherous big-time writer mentor was pitch perfect (just looking at Coogan’s face is enough to make me laugh).
“Ruby Sparks” joins films like “Stranger than Fiction” and “Safety Not Guaranteed” in the sci-fi rom-com realm.
Apart from the ending, another huge problem I had with the movie was the fact that Ruby’s existence is never explained—not even hinted at. It feels like a gaping hole—and just made me want to watch both of the films mentioned above that accomplish Ruby Spark’s goal way more effectively.
Overall Grade: C
“Ruby Sparks” opens today in select theaters. Click here for theaters and showtimes.