Ruby Sparks (2012)

Zoe Kazan and Paul Dano in Ruby Sparks (2012)

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.

2 stars

11 thoughts on “Ruby Sparks (2012)

  1. Pingback: Commentary: The Literal Objectification of Women – How Her, Solaris and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind Examine Gender Dynamics | ccpopculture

    • 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 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.

      • 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!

  2. Great review. I felt Ruby Sparks missed a trick and was ultimately a bit disappointed given the credentials of its film-makers.

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