Ruby Sparks


Inspiration comes from the most spontaneous of places. One minute you’re swamped trying to find an opening for a review concerning a movie you enjoyed; the next you’re just writing hoping people will continue reading… Sorry, I got off track. Right, inspiration. For me, the greatest part about being inspired by something is once you finally put it into action. As struggling novelist Calvin (Paul Dano) finds out in Ruby Sparks, maybe seeing your inspiration in action isn’t as heavenly as you’d imagine.Grade:


After publishing a contemporary masterpiece at the age of nineteen, Calvin has never been able to replicate that success outside short stories. While failing to find the proper inspiration for his new novel, he is given an assignment by his therapist to write about the girl of his dreams. Little did he know this assignment would manifest a girl out of thin air, literally. Thus is the wild tale of Ruby Sparks (Zoe Kazan).

Written by Kazan and starring a real life couple—Kazan and Dano—Sparks exemplifies what one could call a “passion project.” Dano may have expanded his repertoire to include some blockbusters—Looper, Little Miss Sunshine, There Will Be Blood—but for the most part, he’s wiled away in the obscurity of indie films. Similarly, Kazan has even fewer top films on her resume. However, both have a wealth of talent that shines through in Sparks, especially give then strong chemistry between the pair.


It’s not all romantic rainbows and sunshine, though. Certain aspects of Calvin’s character are ignored, such as his crippling antisocial nature and controlling tendencies, but Dano provides a level head to the character that keeps him grounded and likable. At times, it seems like Dano is channeling the performances of other actors with melodramatic line delivery or grandiose mannerisms, but these moments are, luckily, few and far between once he settles into his own.

Meanwhile, Kazan’s mind and moral compass are brought to light through the film’s script. Ruby is Calvin’s creation and serves, at times, as his marionette. The ethical implications of controlling someone that is human in every regard except for its creation is discussed in multiple ways through various avenues. Calvin’s brother Harry (Chris Messina) brings some masculinity to the tale and, ironically, provides the most logical insights into Calvin’s romanticized view of femininity.


Additionally, the supporting cast of Annette Bening, Antonio Banderas, Steve Coogan, and Elliott Gould give the film a more stabilized and legitimate feel, even if every one of them is underutilized. Each character sheds a little more light onto Calvin’s insecurities, but none of them are explained to the point of clarity. We are never really given a true understanding of his personality or mindset.

Ruby Sparks is darker than anticipated. In a way, it exemplifies the stages of love. We have the hesitant/excited initial phase, the honeymoon phase, the phase when the pair begins to normalize and see the true self of the partner, and, if it’s tragic love, the unraveling. Ruby Sparks takes these features and sets itself apart from other indie rom-coms by being fresh, smart, and genuine from start to finish.

*I’d be remiss to not comment how funny it is that Alia Shawkat, who plays Maebe Funke on Arrested Development, had a small role here as Mabel, essentially reminding everyone of the reason she’s famous.

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