Ruby Sparks (Zoe Kazan) is a corporeal work of fiction, a creation of writer Calvin (Paul Dano) somehow magicked into existence. She’s a free spirit. A flash of red hair and purple stockings. She’s deeply in love with her creator (though unaware of her origins). Their relationship is portrayed with weird tonal shifts; a whimsical lightness that lingers when it shouldn’t before a hard turn into a darker tone.
The biggest shift comes late when Kazan’s script spells out the subtext. It’s jarring and unnecessary; lines like “The person you wanted to be in a relationship with was you” aren’t needed to understand this is a deconstruction of the “dream girl” trope and the solipsism behind it. It distracts from more complex ideas (eg “can a man truly write a realistic woman?”), and is subsequently undercut by a howlingly misjudged conclusion that sells out the movie’s own philosophy.
Ruby Sparks is not without merit; it looks nice; the soundtrack is like a livelier, lovelier take on Memento’s score; and there’re some good performances – especially Kazan’s – on show. But it’s not as smart as it thinks it is, demonstrating a frustrating unwillingness to let the audience make up their own minds.
11 thoughts on “Ruby Sparks (2012)”
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Well. That’s the most negative review I have ever seen for this. If I ever see it, I hope I like it more than you. 🙂
Yeah, I seem to be in minority here, having glanced over Letterboxd/Rotten Tomatoes etc. I can see why people like it, it just did not connect with me at all. Hopefully you do enjoy it!
It seems a bit too ‘quirky’ for me
It mostly sheds its quirkiness after the first hour or so; despite the marketing it’s less whimsical than you’d think. It’s trying to interrogate whimsical films as much as be one, it just doesn’t do either particularly well.
I really loved the metaphorical element of Ruby Sparks but I can see how it wouldn’t be for everyone.
What do you mean by the metaphorical element?
At the beginning Ruby is so perfect to Calvin that it seems like he’s written her into life, the way a person you fall in love with always seems to have been made for you when you first meet them. Then as you know them more and they become a whole individual person with a whole set of their own wants and needs that becomes the whole challenge of sustaining love. To me the whole film was a metaphor for that process and how we as humans always want to change our partners. Probably explained that badly.
No, that makes sense! I think I mostly took it as a take on how people can try to mold people into someone who’s perfect for them rather than accept them for they are (and how that can easily take a turn for the abusive) but that it executed it relatively clumsily. The idea that it’s a metaphor for our growing understanding of our partners is more intriguing; I like that take, even if I’m not sure that’s what the film was going for!
Great review. I felt Ruby Sparks missed a trick and was ultimately a bit disappointed given the credentials of its film-makers.
Thanks! I had a similar reaction; went in with high expectations and could only walk away disappointed.