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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Ruby Sparks is a narcissistic narrative from the fingertips of a lonely
writer, blossoming into a Pinocchio-like tale that binds fiction, fable
How hard is it to find the girl of your dreams? If you found her, would she really live up to your expectations?
As a writer, journalist, blogger, and someone who knows the struggles associated with putting pen to paper, or fingers to keyboard, this movie hits home. Not in the sense where I've created imaginary friends, or girls to associate with, but the difficulty, and anguish that comes with writing. It's often said that writers hate to write, but eventually say they are happy that they have written, no film will hold that truth more than Ruby Sparks.
Paul Dano stars as Calvin, a young writing prodigy who experienced fame around the age of 19 after writing a New York Times Best Selling Novel. Since then he has traveled with expectations of another great literary work. Like every writer on the face of this planet (myself included as I write this) his writers block triumphs over all, and he even goes to therapy about it.
One night, while asleep, he dreams of his "dream" girl, instantly he awakes and springs to his typewriter, because well it's 2012 and why would he have a laptop. Calvin writes about his dream girl, an entire story, and then POOF, like magic, she appears in his house like she was there the whole time.
I love the idea. I adore the premise of this film; simply because it's such a bizarre fantasy, one that every guy would kill for, and it was translated onto film in such an endearing and powerful way.
The story unfolds in three parts, you get the set up of who Calvin is, you see his struggle with writing something new, and then we meet Ruby, then the realities of the situation begin to take shape. Ruby Sparks is a romantic fantasy that exudes passion, charm, laugher, and pain. It balances the realities of life with the mythical substance created inside of Calvin's forthcoming pages.
Zoe Kazan plays Ruby, the red-haired, spunky counterpart of Calvin's imagination. Appearing out of thin air, and into Calvin's life; from the discovery of her actual existence to basking in the fermenting love connection, Calvin and Ruby are two peas in a pod. It's pure bliss, like two perfect people found each other, it's nothing short of a hocus pocus spell in the eyes of Calvin.
Kazan deserves bonus kudos for also writing the film, along with starring in it.
Now as Calvin comes to terms with the fact that he has created his dream girl, he finds out he can also make her do whatever he wants, as long as he types it into the story. Sure, far fetched, his brother, Harry, played by Chris Messina doesn't believe this farce of a story either, so proof must be provided. Calvin can make her speak fluent French, be an amazing cook, snap while she talks, extremely happy and bouncy, or even really sad.
He is a puppeteer.
So now the question presents itself, if you had this ability, how far would you go? You control another human being, they are your robot, you are their master, that's what this film and Calvin is/are at it's core. And how interesting is that, as writers we can manipulate characters and stories any way we want with the help of the keys, Calvin is the sculptor of Ruby not only on paper, but in real life.
The film unfolds as Calvin tells his brother, "I'll never write about her again" meaning he wasn't going to finish the story that created Ruby, so that she, nor the relationship would be ruined. The young author soon realizes that once you let go of the creative control of another person, they begin to develop personalities and traits of their own, also known as character, Ruby, being fresh in Calvin's life starts gaining independence and self awareness.
This is where the struggle, and emotional anguish of the film begins. Here is what bridges the gap of Ruby Sparks from imaginary tale, pure doses of reality.
Paul Dano continues to grow, and shine as an actor, his latest work in Being Flynn, and here in Ruby Sparks, have shown the amount of versatility, and depth he can covey in roles. The lanky frame, cardigan wearing, mop hair style makes him the quintessential writer-type, while real life girl friend Zoe Kazan and her bright hair and blue eyes play Ruby to be the girl men would certainly desire.
The chemistry is felt throughout the film, from the happy scenes, to the climax, gut wrenching fight scenes, you must wonder what kind of a toll this took on the actual relationship during production? I have a slight beef with the ending as it was a tad predictable, not from the start of the film, but as the film is coming to a close you can sort of tell how it will end, in a romantic and sweet way.
Supporting roles from Annette Bening as Calvin's hippy mother, Antonio Banderes as her carpenter boyfriend, Steve Coogan, and therapist Elliot Gould, all add great depth and feel to the film.
Great (young) romantic films are impossible to come by, especially ones that also feel authentic. I can only think of two in the last handful of years, 500 Days of Summer, and Like Crazy. I'm confident to proclaim Ruby Sparks is being thrown on that mantel (of mine), and young folks from 18-30 should really love this film.
The unique Zoe Kazan wrote and stars in this quirky, fascinating, and
original film about a writer with writer's block (Paul Dano, Kazan's
real-life main squeeze) who invents the girl of his dreams, writes
about her, and watches her become real.
While this film has been billed by reviewers and marketed by publicists as a "romantic comedy," in many ways it's not. It's both more and less. Less predictable, certainly, as the endings of modern romantic comedies are notoriously pat. More ... what? Strange? Edgy? Depressing even (at times)? Maybe all of the above. But ultimately upbeat.
The gifted Paul Dano has created a character - a young woman - who is exactly who he wants, or at least so he thinks. It's not until he meets his ex at a party 2/3 of the way through the movie that the audience really begins to understand what's going on. And it's not just hearts and flowers. But no spoilers here.
That Kazan pulled off both this original idea AND the ability to end it in a way that made sense yet left unanswered questions that should be unanswered is testimony to her screen-writing talents. Her roots here are strong: both of her screen writing parents and her famed grandfather Elia. But Zoe is also extremely appealing as the film's title character, showing a range of acting skills that could make her a star.
And for fun, we get Bening, Banderas, and Gould, all enlivening the proceedings.
Original movies are hard to find, and when you find them, often hard to watch. This film is both original and very watchable.
In a world full of remakes and sequels, it is becoming more and more
rare to get something truly original. When something does finally come
along it is always hit and miss. Backed by a strong cast including Paul
Dano, Steve Coogan, Antonio Banderas, Annette Bening, and Elliott
Gould, Ruby Sparks attempts to be that latest independent film to bring
audiences something new and creative. Can a film with an idea that
seems to be based on both fantasy and reality come together to deliver
that refreshing film or be just another lost opportunity? Ruby Sparks
follows a writer dealing with writer's block as well as a desperate
attempt to find love. When the female character he is writing becomes
real, his life spirals into various directions trying to determine
where his writing will take them. While the story basis for this film
comes off a bit unrealistic, the way it is handled makes you buy into
the story. For the first half of the film it is pretty funny and
creative delivering one of the more entertaining original films in
sometime. As it moves forward and towards the inevitable darker tone it
seems to slow down a bit making some moments drag a little. Everyone
gives a great performance, but Paul Dano really steps up delivering a
quirky uncomfortable innocence to the lead that makes it all work. Some
of the characters decisions could have been looked at as a bit creepy,
but thanks to the way he handled it comes off as a bit more enduring.
This is easily one of the more unique romantic comedies to come along
in a while stepping away from the normal format and instead taking a
left hand turn creating something new.
This is a funny touching film that does get a bit heavy at times and while not a long movie does feel a bit too long at times due to pacing. As a whole, it still manages to work on most levels and accomplishes what it seems to set out to do. If you are ready and willing to take a break from the big budget spectacles of Hollywood, then give this character study a chance you will be pleasantly surprised.
The film is a lot different from the trailer. It's very good, brilliant actually, fun and enjoyable but much darker. The film shows it as a light weight,playful film, not as a psychotic man who needs to control every small detail in his life including the woman he loves. It is truly brilliant, but go in with an open mind, don't leave the trailer to guide you through the film. I sound like I'm giving it a bad impression. I don't mean to, I came out with my dad and I absolutely loved it, we spent most of the journey home contemplating what we had seen. And in all truths, I want the mum's house, and their water slide, and more!
What do you do if you're a struggling actress searching for the right
part that will help separate you from the hungry pack of millions of
other starving wannabes? Well
you write one for yourself of course. Zoe
Kazan, who has made a living with smaller supporting roles in a variety
of films, (Revolutionary Road, Happythankyoumoreplease, It's
Complicated) writes and stars as the title character in Ruby Sparks, a
role that is bound to officially put her on the map. She doesn't allow
you to take your eyes off her, and has loads of fun playing with the
mass amount of emotions that come from being the figment of a possible
crazy person's imagination.
Ruby Sparks is creative, original, highly entertaining and one of the best films of the year. Directors, Jonathan Dayton & Valerie Faris, team up for the first time since 2006's breakout film, Little Miss Sunshine, and provide the same zeal and love that made it a huge success.
The rest of the cast is nothing short of phenomenal. Paul Dano (Cowboys & Aliens, There Will Be Blood) continues to build on his reputation as one of the strongest actors of his generation. Great actors make great choices with their role selection, and Paul once again shows he has fantastic taste. Chris Messina, who seems to appear everywhere (Film Julie & Julia, Greenberg, Away We Go, Devil, Like Crazy, TV The Newsroom, Damages) is strong as the side man once again, and is more than ready to be major star. Acting legends Annette Bening, Antonio Banderas and Elliot Gould jump in for short periods of time making huge waves and leaving long lasting impressions.
Unlike most romantic type movies, Ruby Sparks doesn't feel like a retread Kate Hudson Sandra Bullock Katherine Heigl cheese fest, and is filled with a fun, creative energy that is too often missed in rom-com's. Ruby Sparks is superb on all fronts, and as a movie of the year candidate shouldn't be missed.
For more quick reviews check out www.FilmStallion.com
Greetings again from the darkness. Well it took six years, but
co-directors Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris finally deliver their
follow-up to the smash hit Little Miss Sunshine. With a script from
first time screenwriter Zoe Kazan (granddaughter of legendary director
Elia Kazan), we get an odd mash-up of would-be Woody Allen, Charlie
Kaufman, Stranger Than Fiction, and a Twilight Zone episode.
The story begins almost as a whimsical fantasy. Paul Dano plays Calvin, a blocked writer 10 years after writing the next great American novel, while he was still a teenager. The necessary comparisons to JD Salinger are made, and we witness Calvin as a socially-inept type who was never comfortable with his early success, and now can't find a way to move on with life. Given a writing assignment by his shrink (Elliott Gould), Calvin discovers the true power of the written word.
After a dream of meeting a lovely girl in the park, Calvin's fingers tear through his manual typewriter and develop a story around his literal dream girl. And literal means literal. He runs into her downstairs. His creation has become his creation. Once he realizes they aren't going to lock him away for insanity, Calvin and Ruby begin a real relationship. Well as real as it can be with a girl who is not really real and whose actions can be changed simply by typing words on a page. If you think this sounds like a male fantasy, then you are in agreement with Calvin's brother (Chris Messina).
A trip to visit the brothers' mothers (Annette Bening) and her boyfriend (Antonio Banderas) adds some humorous scenes while also signaling the beginning of trouble for Ruby and Calvin. It turns out that bringing your invented dream girl into the real world doesn't always work so well. Who would have thought? There is much humor in the film including Steve Coogan as Calvin's mentor. Deborah Ann Woll has a scene as Calvin's ex-girlfriend and it is probably the best written scene in the film. Really good insight into how two people's view of the same relationship can vary greatly.
The story can be looked at from different perspectives. It certainly serves as insight into how a writer's mind can work. Many writers need a muse ... but few get to create their own! More importantly, it makes a statement on how we (well, not me) often try to control and manipulate the other person in our relationships. This is a sterling reminder to be careful what you ask for ... you just might get it. www.moviereviewsfromthedark.wordpress.com
Paul Dano plays Calvin, a dead sad and dead serious young writer, who
has apparently used the royalties from his one hugely popular novel to
finance an ultramodern iPod-themed house, and yet still chooses to use
a typewriter. In the depths of his writer's block he fashions a few
choice sentences about a woman - Ruby Sparks - who is his dream girl.
His literature makes her literal, and Calvin is able to control her
moods and actions by typing. It's reminiscent of Stranger Than Fiction
with Will Ferrell, although Dano plays his part more like Jim Carrey
might have done a decade ago: broad and physical, but with subtlety and
pathos behind the mugging.
In a welcome tonal shift, Ruby Sparks moves gradually from hip romantic comedy to meta-horror - although it feels like there's a bit too much of the former, as I got the feeling that the zany pixie girl and self- hating writer stereotypes were being indulged more than they were being deconstructed. So what could have been a really interesting Woody Allen-esque philosophical rabbit-hole ends up cutting a far more familiar, shallower groove. But still, it's satisfying to see a cautionary flourish to go with the wish fulfilment.
Ruby herself is played by Zoë Kazan, granddaughter of the great Elia (On the Waterfront et al), with great energy and some charm. Kazan also wrote the film. So we have a film about art imitating life, written by the actor playing the title character, starring her real-life partner (Dano), and directed by the real-life partnership of Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris (best known for Little Miss Sunshine). So it's a helluva conundrum; but it's also well-made, sometimes funny and thought- provoking, and includes amusing cameos from Elliot Gould, Annette Bening, Steve Coogan and Antonio Banderas - so definitely worth a watch.
I liked the movie a lot. I felt very moved and intrigued both by the
premise and the complications to move the story along.
Big but: The lead character, Calvin, is not believable as a "genius novelist" nor even as a pretty good one. Why? He has no idea how to make Ruby, whom he completely controls, subtle and complex the way any good novelist would his characters.
He paints her happy and sad, joyful and childishly clinging with such broad brush strokes he is an incompetent "inventor" of a character/person, let alone his dream girl. If you or I created an automaton, WE might swing back and forth to the extremes while trying to adjust his/her behavior. Calvin should be an expert not a tyro at subtle shades of behavior. Granted, if he got her just right, we would have no crisis to force the story to a resolution.
And the resolution is Hollywood sugar. In Europe or Israel, the hero would be left with the sad results of his failure. (He stares out to sea on a deserted beach to ponder what happened and his bleak future?) Here, the filmmakers insist we leave the theater feeling good about Calvin and Ruby.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
After reading several reviews about Ruby Sparks, my observation that
many think that an indie film somehow must be bitter, jaded or even
downright mean to its characters to be good was reinforced. Well, I
suspect it's those reviewers who are jaded.
Ruby Sparks is romance. It's funny in places, it's quirky (and has its flaws, sure, but they're easily forgiven). So don't watch it under a microscope. Watch it for what it is: a mildly oddball romantic comedy with a nice, superbly-refreshing twist.
Don't watch it if you simply can't stand sweetness in an "independent film." It's not sappy, it's not laid on thick. To me, it was just the right amount. And left me feeling warm and good inside.
Performances are excellent. The story line may border on formulaic...or APPEAR to. Give it a chance to break away. Sweetness is NOT a bad thing. Enjoy.
The storyline is original and very well written. I thought it was great. It's not about superheroes or an action movie or a thriller or a blockbuster. So who would enjoy it? Geeks, smart people, romantics, sci- fi lovers ... Regarding the latter, I'm sure the writer was not thinking in terms of sci fi, but it meets my #1 criterion for great sci fi, namely, it changes one aspect of ordinary reality, preferably the here and now and not the distant future, and through that change gives insight into that ordinary reality that we live in. Despite its' being about impossible fiction, it seemed more real than most movies. A lot of the best writing has a writer as the main character - so maybe it's true that one should write about what one knows best. Of course, it's about romance and objectification as well and that's well done as well.
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