Writer’s block makes for some great film-making. Think Adaptation. Think Secret Window. Isn’t it ironic that writer’s block makes for great film writing (Good catch Pratik)? Finding inspiration to erase writer’s block must feel like a soul-soothing victory. But what happens the victory comes with bonus winnings? What happens when the author’s (Calvin Weir-Fields) new literal muse (Ruby Sparks) comes alive? And she isn’t one of those ghosts who’s visible only to the main character (no offense to people who believe in ghosts). She’s as real as it gets. Other people can see her. Listen to her. Eat the delicious meatloaf she cooks. And that’s not all. Every time he adds something new to his manuscript, the changes to the character become part of her existence. Calvin can control and mold Ruby with his typewriter (yes, Calvin still uses an old-fashioned typewriter). That in a nutshell is Ruby Sparks.
There’s more to the entire premise than the preview suggests. It’s a very, very intelligently presented storyline that moves ever so gingerly. It starts out as an intriguing comedy, which turns into plain fun after Calvin starts realizing the amount of power he has over Ruby. The eventual introductions of the mother and step-father (played by Annette Bening and Antonio Banderas, respectively) follow. And soon enough, I was a little stumped, a little skeptical. Despite the shots of the typewriter spelling out the themes one by one, I had plenty of questions. Where was this going? What exactly do the writer and directors want me to look out for here? Was I missing something?
The beauty of the screenplay is that on the surface it seems like we’re watching the deconstruction of Ruby Sparks. Each discovery of her being, you suppose, is represented by a few paragraphs in the manuscript Calvin’s working on. But in reality, it’s the author who’s being deconstructed all along, being analyzed by the audience at every juncture. And then it struck me towards the end. It’s not a study in Ruby Sparks stupid. It’s Calvin Weir-Fields this is about! And it presents itself in such a sly, creepy manner that it …. well, it just creeps the hell out of you.
One would think that this film belongs to Paul Dano, who plays Calvin with near flawlessness. I’ve always thought Dano plays mellow, simple boy-next-door roles; he proves he’s capable of so much more. And yet, he must make way for the real star of the film - Zoe Kazan. Not just because she plays Ruby Sparks, but also because she’s written the film by herself, not one of those co-written contributions. In an odd subtext of the film, she plays the roles of the creator off-screen and creation on-screen, side by side. If anybody could’ve played Ruby to perfection, it had to be her creator.
At a telling point in the film, Calvin realizes that “any writer can attest: in the luckiest, happiest state, the words are not coming from you, but through you.” Watching a movie can seem like watching one pointless frame after another. But every once in a while, you sit back and absorb the power of the statements thrown at you. You may miss the next few seconds but the mental pause of contemplation makes it well worth it. And that moment brings the entire film come together. It all makes sense. And that’s all I need to tell you about Ruby Sparks.
Watch it if you liked: romantic comedies that are funny but the best parts don’t necessarily make you laugh. Off the top of my head, it kind of reminded me of (500) Days of Summer. Kind of. Be sure to check out Ruby Sparks at the Cedar Lee.
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