A realistic and honest portrayal of a metaphysical story.
Ruby Sparks, the first feature film written by Zoe Kazan, granddaughter of legendary film director Elia Kazan, is an entertaining and thought provoking exploration of the slightly beyond belief story of what would happen if you manifested a person into existence. It’s Weird Science but philosophical. The film is directed by Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris, whose previous effort Little Miss Sunshine, went on to garner four academy award nominations including Best Film. It won two for Best Original Screenplay and Best Supporting actor.
Calvin is a 29 year-old writer living in Los Angeles. While still in high school he wrote a novel, widely considered by the literary community as an American classic. It was also a financial windfall, which has paid for his beautiful Hollywood Hills home. Since then, his writing has been a little stagnant and he’s not quite penned that second novel. It’s been ten years. As he struggles with his own personal neuroses, like any good writer I’m assuming, he begins having dreams of a girl his he calls Ruby Sparks. He becomes so fascinated with her it spurs him to begin writing again. She will be his heroine. One day, small signs begin to intrude into Calvin’s life that indicate Ruby Sparks, his imagined character, may actually have come to life. This sends him into a tailspin as he tries to cope with what he believes must be a psychotic snap. That particular scene is telling of the entire film. It is played for laughs, but written within the real context of how a sane man would respond to a possible hallucination. There are no cheesy moments here, just an honest portrayal of how this might occur. Ruby, for her part, believes she is living a normal life. To her, she’s always existed and Calvin is her boyfriend. The movie then delves deep into the psyche of a relationship conceived by one person that is decidedly lopsided in his favor. It straddles the line between romantic comedy, heartfelt drama and the possible “what if” scenarios of such an out there plot.
Calvin is your typical manic, possibly depressive writer, but played with a charm and innocence that makes him affable at all times. His flaws, most of which revolve around his interactions with others, are powerful enough to make us want to see him grow into a stronger version of himself. You will be on board, hook line and sinker. Ruby (Kazan) is remarkable. She’s not a one trick pony fantasy girl by any stretch of the imagination. She is honest, flawed, scared, and adorable all rolled into one. Her story becomes the powerful backbone of the film when the question is broached, “what happens when the fantasy relationship becomes real”. Ruby becomes a real person regardless of her possibly being manifested into existence. She has wants and needs, and since Calvin’s issues don’t magically resolve themselves, tremendous conflict is born.
The ending can be slightly odd and you’ll most definitely be in analysis mode for 10 minutes after the credits roll, but it does not detract from the story in the least bit. I enjoyed tremendously the true to life telling of this imaginative plot and think it’s sure to garner high praise.
Ruby Sparks is currently in theaters. (August 2012)