Sep 9, 2013

[Movies] Ruby Sparks (2012)

Mondays are reserved for "new" movie reviews, or at least movies that came out within the past year or so. At times there are movies that I'm totally excited to see and there are others that just happened to be there in our collection.

When Ruby Sparks first came out, Tobie and I were somewhat interested in it but we didn't know enough about the movie to fully commit to seeing it. And so we skipped out on catching it in the theater and opted to wait for the home video release instead. But when that happens, you know how recent movies just get lost among all the other ones that are also waiting in queue to be seen, once the mood finally hits us.

So this morning I was in search of a movie that I could review and we ended up digging up this one from the archives. And while it was not a movie that we were super excited about, it was still one that we actually enjoyed once we got around to it.

Definitely not your typical romance movie.

Synopsis: Ruby Sparks is a 2012 romantic comedy drama movie written by Zoe Kazan and directed by Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris. Kazan also stars in the movie as the titular character.

Calvin (Paul Dano) is a young novelist who hit it big with his first novel while he was 19, but has not been able to recapture that same success since. He struggles with his writing with all these different concepts but never seems to finish any of them. His therapist, Dr. Rosenthal (Elliott Gould) gives him a writing assignment as part of his therapy - to write about a person who would like his dog, Scotty. Calvin them dreams up this quirky young girl who actually draws a picture of Scotty since she likes him. He wakes up absolutely inspired and starts writing about this girl - a girl named Ruby Sparks (Zoe Kazan), whom he starts to fall in love with.

One day his brother Harry (Chris Messina) and sister-in-law Susie (Toni Trucks) come to visit. All three of them start to find articles of women's clothing or signs that a girl has been staying over at his place, although Calvin has no recollection of any such person. The next day, he is surprised to find that Ruby, his character, is not standing in his apartment. Against all odds, she is a very real person although it's not clear if she had always been real or perhaps was a recurring figment of his imagination.

The element of a fictional reality crossing over into the real world is always a fun premise to me although it's not necessarily easy to handle. But in movies like Stranger Than Fiction and this one, we get to see how a story of this nature can be told well. And it can make for rather interesting storytelling indeed.

Zoe Kazan's portrayal of Ruby Sparks was rather central to the movie. She's another version of the adorable, endearing quirky girl and yet manages not to be a carbon copy of  Zoe Deschanel, which seems to happen a lot these days. She's a strong character in her own right, and whether this speaks to Kazan's skills as an actress or her skills as a writer are hard to say.

Dano was an interesting casting choice as well, although he's not necessarily a distinct character when compared to other actors who fulfill such awkward love interest roles. He fits the role well enough, don't get me wrong. But at the same time he feels way too like every other socially awkward male lead. I don't think that he brought anything particularly new to this type of a character. Then again, should he? Or are such stories dependent on socially awkward male leads to be similar to one another.

And Chris Messina will portray the same kind of douche bag character that he also performs in The Mindy Project and other productions. Just had to throw that out there.

The movie has a strong premise and the initial reveal about Ruby Sparks being real was pretty fantastic. And they managed to have a nice ending to things as well, which admittedly I wasn't quite sure it would turn out that way. The initial premise about the fictional character becoming real after all has some significant limitations and I'm glad that they found a way to wrap things up neatly enough. It still remained generally realistic, but definitely more like a drama than just a comedy, which is a good thing.

Ruby Sparks is a nicely intelligent piece of work and a different kind of romantic comedy experience. It plays on a lot of familiar tropes about such stories but it does so in a rather effective manner. Thus it still rates 4 almost scary moments of Calvin writing more about Ruby out of a possible 5.

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