“Ruby Sparks”: Writer’s Block Unhinged, Therapy Notwithstanding

A new indie film Ruby Sparks, starring young actors Paul Dano and Zoe Kazan, has kind of an unusual premise. From Fox Searchlight Pictures: “Calvin (Dano) is a young novelist who achieved phenomenal success early in his career but is now struggling with his writing – as well as his romantic life. Finally, he makes a breakthrough and creates a character named Ruby who inspires him. When Calvin finds Ruby (Kazan), in the flesh, sitting on his couch about a week later, he is completely flabbergasted that his words have turned into a living, breathing person.”

Also interesting? Some of the connections between the creative folks involved, including that it’s the same team that directed Little Miss Sunshine, in which Dano played a sullen, non-speaking teenager. Betsy Sharkey, Los Angeles Times, elaborates: “The film is about as meta as meta gets. Real-life couple Paul Dano and Zoe Kazan star as lovebirds Calvin (the writer) and Ruby (his dreamy dream girl). They are directed by another real-life couple, Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris, from a screenplay by Kazan, who had Dano in mind when she was writing. Love is definitely in the air, as well as under the microscope.”

The Ruby Sparks trailer opens with Calvin consulting his shrink (Elliott Gould):

When I saw the preview in a theater, it wasn’t until the end that I felt intrigued—can this couple survive? If so, in what parallel universe?

Dana Stevens of Slate observes, “Both writing and love are a lot harder to do well than the ending of Ruby Sparks would have us believe. So is making a movie about them.”

One other enticing factor is that a therapist is involved. However, as it turns out, the shrink is unnecessary.

What about the film’s message? Roger Ebert: “If the film has a message, and I’m not sure it does, it may be: As long as you’re alive, you’re always in rewrite.”

Hmm. What do other critics think Ruby Sparks is about?

Stephen Whitty, The Star-Ledger: “…(I)ts about our unwillingness to accept someone as they are, our self-destructive fondness for falling in love with impossible ideals (and then trying to tinker, endlessly, with the people we do manage to end up with)…”

Mick LaSalle, San Francisco Chronicle: “A movie about the power of the imagination really becomes a movie about a certain element of surrender – about the release of power – that is practically a requirement for loving somebody.”

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