Written by Zoe Kazan (who also plays the eponymous Ruby) and directed by the wife and husband team behind Little Miss Sunshine, Ruby Sparks is not your average boy-meets-girl story. Try boy-writes-girls-into-existence.
Calvin (Paul Dano) is a writer who enjoyed huge success with his first novel to the extent he’s lauded as one of America’s greatest novelists. This very success has creatively crippled Calvin who now can’t write more than a sentence, despite ever increasing pressure from his publishers and agent for a follow-up. To get past his writer’s block, his doctor (Elliot Gould) sets him the challenge of writing the most mundane prose possible – a story about someone who meets his dog in the park and likes him despite his flaws.
The intrigue quickly progresses from here, with Ruby becoming the fictional girl in his mundane story who after appearing to him in dreams and inspiring him to write, materialises in his kitchen. The couple’s relationship is montage-perfect for a while, but when cracks appear Calvin uses his power to mould Ruby Sparks and whimsy quickly gives way to darkness.
A recurring theme throughout the film is Calvin’s ‘genius’. We are repeatedly told he doesn’t like being called a genius and whenever someone lets this compliment slip, he is visibly uncomfortable. In the film’s climax, Calvin’s intellectual insecuritites come to a head and unmasks our protagonist as a much more sinister entity than previously thought.
Anotonio Banderas and Annetee Benning also provide excellent comic performances as Calvin’s parents. Giving the comic turns required to balance out the issues and angst of the central couple even if they were more than a bit reminiscent of Ben Stiller’s parents in Meet The Fockers.
This Pygmalion meets hipster Weird Science comedy drama is a charming tale with enough substance and intrigue to become more than what could have been very easily an empty piece of whimsy.
Watch the trailer for Ruby Sparks:
By Jamie McHale