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Ruby Sparks - Cinemaholic Movie Reviews
one person's obsessive addiction to film
Ruby Sparks
Directing: B+
Acting: B
Writing: B+
Cinematography: B
Editing: B+

Given the waning popularity of actually reading books for the past many decades, it might seem curious that so many movies still get made about writers, and the nature of writing. On the other hand, even movies have to be written. So, they get made by writers -- who like to offer commentary on writing. I'm not sure there's such a huge audience for that though.

That said, Ruby Sparks offers some richly textured food for thought amongst lovers of both books and movies. Granted, even offering novel takes on the nature of novel writing isn't that novel anymore: it was six years ago when Will Farrell played a man who discovers he's actually a fictional character in someone's novel in Stranger Than Fiction.

To be fair, Ruby Sparks is a somewhat better movie. It just isn't quite as original an idea as it clearly wants to be.

In this case, the author in question is Calvin (Paul Dano), who in his late twenties has not managed to write another novel since having written an apparent modern American masterpiece since he was just out of high school. He struggles with writer's block. He has no friends and spends all his social time with his brother Harry (Chris Messina). But then he has a dream about a girl, which inspires him to write, and write he does -- until the writing literally wills this fictional woman into existence.

Fun fact: Ruby is played by Zoe Kazan, who also wrote the script. There's a key scene in which Harry reads some of Calvin's pages before actually meeting Ruby, and he points out that due to his lack of experience, he hasn't written a very real woman. As it turns out, Kazan does a good job of writing a version of a woman thought up by a man who knows little about women.

No explanation is given of how this miracle occurs; Ruby is just in Calvin's house all of a sudden. This after he's been finding women's underwear around the house and women's shaving cream in his medicine cabinet. Movies like this always work better this way anyway, letting the mystery remain a mystery. The characters are free simply to react and adapt.

It's easy to wonder how any of this can lead to any conclusion that makes any satisfying sense. To Kazan's credit, the movie ends bringing everything full circle in a most wonderful way. It's that ending specifically that resulted in its charms lasting beyond the end credits.

Much like Stranger Than Fiction, Ruby Sparks is reminiscent of some of Charlie Kaufman's earlier work, minus most of the surrealism. I suppose that's the difference: Kaufman takes people grounded in reality and pulls them out of it; this movie takes an unreal concept and observes its effects on people living in the reality around it.

And, well, it's fun. And this one is a charming love story, even if when you think too hard about it, it's about a guy sort of in love with himself, since the woman is literally a product of his own imagination. There's a lot of layers to consider here, if you're inclined. It only barely gets self-referential; at one point there's a clear suggestion that Kazan herself finds this story "a little pretentious." That comment is immediately followed up with "I really like it," though -- and I feel the same way.

Zoe Kazan and Paul Dano manifest the contemplation of existence in RUBY SPARKS.

Overall: B+
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