It’s not often that original ideas make their way onto cinema screens but Ruby Sparks offers a refreshingly new and intelligent take on the rom com genre in this mix of Weird Science and Stranger Than Fiction.
Calvin (Paul Dano) is a novelist suffering from writer’s block. After being given an assignment by his therapist he begins to fall in love with a girl he writes about until one day he finds her living in his flat.
Ruby Sparks features some moments of cinematic ingenuity, most of which come from the remarkably simple premise. In writing Ruby into reality Calvin creates an amazingly complex moral problem. Whilst his brother (Chris Messina) sees all the ways Calvin could manipulate the situation to his advantage, Calvin goes from abstaining from plying his new-found girlfriend in any way to completely intervening with Ruby’s decision-making and lifestyle choices.
Expertly avoiding any questionable storylines, the film focuses on the lengths to which one person would go to ensure that they get to live their lives with ‘the one’. Though descended from Calvin’s visions of what his ideal woman would be like, Ruby inevitably has a mind of her own and begins to feel suffocated by her life with Calvin. When he sees that she wants more freedom he’s torn by the creative power he has.
Ruby Sparks’ main appeal, unsurprisingly, is Ruby Sparks herself. Played by the film’s screenwriter Zoe Kazan, Ruby must go through all spheres of the relationship spectrum; she laughs, she cries, she leaves and, more than once, she speaks fluent French (a motion not everyone will go through, we’ll grant you).
Ruby is the latest addition to a long line of female characters that fit the manic pixie dream girl persona. The inclusion of such a character here is not only forgiveable but is a necessity; the film presents one man’s ideals and explores the repercussions of the reality of such a woman existing in real life and ultimately asserts how people can’t be manipulated.
The film packs some highly emotive scenes alongside its comedic ones, including one that sees both actors on top form. The supporting cast, including Antonio Banderas and Annette Benning, are all top quality but are often eclipsed by the film’s central relationship.
Writing is an absorbing context for movies (as proved by Will Ferrell comedy Stranger Than Fiction). Ruby Sparks is an impressive return for Little Miss Sunshine director Jonathon Dayton.