Sunday, August 19, 2012

Ruby Sparks: Movie Review


A romantic comedy born from fiction where everything has already been written.

Calvin (Paul Dano) is trying to write a book, a follow-up to his “next great American novel” success story from 10 years ago. He’s been trying to write this new book for 10 years, but nothing comes out. His therapist gives him a writing assignment: take your dog Scotty out for a walk and then write about the type of girl you might meet. Ruby Sparks is born. 2012

Directed by: Jonathan Dayton, and Valerie Faris

Screenplay by: Zoe Kazan

Starring: Paul Dano, Zoe Kazan

The problem is that she is literally born. After a night of writing feverishly about his brand new heroine, he discovers Ruby (Zoe Kazan) in his kitchen, making breakfast. The best parts of the film have all been introduced by this point. I love the idea of a writing assignment that can provide just enough inspiration to keep you writing and accomplish what you wanted. Paul Dano is at his best when he’s trying to figure out which level of crazy he is. Seeing as he has brought a fictional girl to real life, he must be really crazy. So he calls his brother, Harry (Chris Messina). Messina is also at his best when he’s playing the straight man in a supporting role in a comedy.

Paul Dano is less credible as a mature, experienced, genius novelist. To give some excerpts from his work-in-progress: “Ruby is happy.” “Ruby is sad.” “Ruby is just plain Ruby.” Granted, that is taken out of context, but I would hate to be his publisher whom he was planning on giving this to. Most of the “Ruby is” statements serve to provide physical comedy moments for writer/star Kazan.

There were quite a few points during the movie where they chose to go for more comedy, or romance, or typical romantic comedy fare, when they could have introduced some serious philosophies ripe for introspection on what it means to be a writer. This film, above all else, is just a romantic comedy. And while it is good, it should have been better. Especially since this has in fact been done before.

“Ruby Sparks” is an exact mix of “(500) Days of Summer” (2009) and “Stranger than Fiction” (2006). Including the manic pixie dream girl who is mostly a figment of the protagonist’s imagination and he has to figure out what it is that he loves about her.