Ruby Sparks is Johnny-with-a-big-wet-fantasy-one note. It is about a male writer creating a woman on a page and controlling her every move. It does not sustain this simplistic story line and has nowhere to go, but ouch! Nevertheless for awhile Paul Dano as Calvin the writer with writer's block is adorable. He seizes your interest immediately. Charming, hesitant, bewildered, he visits his therapist Elliot Gould to whine about his inability to write. He had written one book at age 19 that made it to the New York Times best sellers list. Gould's opening scene is well acted as he demonstrates his charm by taking his long thoughtful moments that made him a star.
Calvin returns home and that night has another dream about red-haired Ruby Sparks (Zoe Kazan) who happens to be the star of his novel in progress. The film opens with Calvin dreaming about Ruby and after his visit to his therapist, Ruby comes alive. She is innocent as only a male fantasy would believe. Calvin discovers that as he writes something in his novel about Ruby, she does it. She is his living marionette and he pulls her strings at the wonderful, old-fashioned typewriter
No computers in this film. This begs the question of when Zoe Kazan wrote it. Yes, she stars in it and wrote it. Kudos for her talent and her quirky presence, but this film falls flat in its middle. Like a hot air balloon pricked by a critic. Ruby and Calvin pay a trip to his parents Annette Bening (Gertrude) and Antonio Banderas,( Steve Coogan), in their post hippie abode.
Directors Valerie Faris and Jonathan Dayton miss their moments by directing Annette Bening to be too effervescent -- on the verge of insincere -- and Banderas in the same giggly manner. Some heartfelt acting here might have helped sustain interest in Calvin and Ruby, but the vaudeville acting kills this film in its middle. Hari-kari at best. I don't fault Bening or Banderas, but rather Faris and Dayton who were in charge of this mess.
While this scene makes for the downfall of this movie, the real fault is in its plot. Calvin writes and writes and controls and controls Ruby until he realizes... well, see the film if you really want to know.
But skip it if you feel that controlling a woman is not the kind of fantasy that turns you on. And while this is written by a woman, one would think that Ms. Kazan would have thought twice about the sexist overtones. I suppose she was more focused on Calvin's loneliness rather than his need to create a romantic partner. Kazan must have experienced great loneliness while writing. That or while living.
For me this film fails in its premise yet I hope Kazan keeps writing, but about more genuine subjects. She has talent that was spewed in Ruby Sparks, but her early draft should have been left in the trash.
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