Film Review : Ruby Sparks
● By Justin Buettner
Calvin, an introverted writer who suffers from writer’s block, begins writing again at the request of his psychiatrist. The new writing results in Calvin creating his dream girl on page and his passion writing her character becomes so strong that she magically becomes real. Ruby Sparks, Calvin’s invented love interest, knows nothing of her creation and he can still manipulate her emotions and actions by writing on his typewriter despite her real world manifestation. Can Calvin maintain a relationship of his own invention?
Ruby Sparks has an interesting premise and the first half of the film was quite entertaining. Unfortunately midway through the film the story takes a terrible turn and the movie becomes uncomfortable, uninteresting, and actually makes the lead characters rather unlikable. It is a shame really because good romantic comedies are hard to come by. I especially liked that Ruby Sparks didn’t resort to potty humor or crass jokes and kept a charming personality for the first half of the film anyway.
The biggest strength of Ruby Sparks resided in the performance by the two leads. They were perfectly cast. Paul Dano fits the part of nerdy introvert to a tee, and he actually doesn’t overplay his hand either instead opting for a subtle performance instead of slapstick, gimmicky, or a cliché delivery. Zoe Kazan again was a perfect match physically as the artsy, interesting and always changing lady of Calvin’s dreams. The role required a lot from Kazan and she always gave it heart and never over exaggerated the role even when it would have been extremely easy to do so.
Interestingly Zoe Kazan was also the writer in her first feature writing credit. She had a great premise and the first half of Ruby Sparks was wonderful. Midway through the story lost its way and instead of following the original storyline to completion the movie takes a left turn. Calvin begins writing Ruby’s fate too heavy handedly and all the pleasant set up for the first hour is for naught as the tone shifts from charming to dark. By the time the big moment between the two leads occurs they become so dislikable that it’s not surprising that Calvin’s actions borderline on deeply disturbed and cruel. Why did they ruin such a charming film?
The directing team of Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris do a good job with the material. Having directed the wonderful Little Miss Sunshine, the duo applies the same sense of pacing and comic style to this film. They manage to set a good tone to start and attempt to maintain that tone when the film goes bad in the second half.
I believe Ruby Sparks had the potential to be a really great independent romantic comedy. Only when it attempts to be something more or different than a romantic comedy did the movie fail. If only the writer fought the urge to try and complicate the story and cloud an effective story with themes and tones that didn’t fit. Sometimes being excellent at the simple things is the best creative decision. People who like romantic comedies will enjoy Ruby Sparks, especially the first half. Despite it’s bad second half I think the movie overall is better than most of the romantic comedies that the major Hollywood Studios have to offer.
Films like Ruby Sparks : Safety Not Guaranteed, Timer, and Moonrise Kingdom
Justin Buettner is Style's resident movie dude! How did he get this role? Well, he graduated from Loyola Marymount University with a Bachelor of Arts in film Production and a duel minor in Animation and Business with an emphasis in the entertainment field. He later went on to work on several independent films in various key roles including writer and later worked in the special effects field as a motion capture artist. He has since relocated to the Sacramento area with his family and continues writing for small independent films in addition to his movie reviews for Style Magazine.