Review: Ruby Sparks

Have you ever read a book and wished a character was real? Or perhaps written about a character in a story with an ardent desire that this figment of your imagination would materialise in front of you? No, me neither. However, this is the dilemma which main character Calvin Weir-Fields faces in this film about love, funny times and break ups. Let me elucidate further: Calvin is a writer and in the midst of a crisis of writer’s block he begins writing about a fictitious character he names Ruby. This is all very well and classic-post-break-up except this character actually materialises in Calvin’s house. She cooks, speaks French and sings exactly as he imagined. As Chris Messina’s character Harry marvels: ‘You manifested a woman, in your mind!’ This gives rise to some great comic moments including our slightly panic-stricken writer hiding under his desk believing he has finally lost it. Once he pulls himself together Calvin ventures out with Ruby only to discover ‘She’s real!’ and from here on in the story starts to unravel somewhat. The problem is Calvin actually manages to control Ruby through his writing which is clearly impossible, so maybe it’s Calvin’s imagination? Yes, but other people see Ruby as well so it’s not altogether clear whether we are witnessing a random post-break-up notion of Calvin’s creation or we are actually following true events.

Although the idea is a good one and definitely helps to explore the tricky subject of relationships and whether it is truly possible to find the ideal partner, there is a roughness to the storyline which leaves it short of a nice streamlined finish. But there is a sense with this movie that it is not designed to be perfect. The quirky edge to it brought in bucket-loads by the directors of Little Miss Sunshine helps to carry it off and the comedy value of the ridiculous turn of events makes it worth a watch. Paul Dano (There Will Be Blood, Looper) puts in a solid performance as the awkward genius Calvin and the often overlooked Zoe Kazan (In the Valley of Elah, Fracture) shows some depth in a role which could have evolved from quirky and intriguing into annoying and whiny and not forgetting that she penned the story her very self.

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The thing that makes this film worth seeing isn’t the slightly holey storyline but the way Kazan has created a relationship which many people can identify with whether it be in the early stages where the couple do ‘crazy’ things like jumping in swimming pools or the ‘disillusionment phase’ where Calvin starts to ‘rewrite’ Ruby or facing up to the pain of the break-up and the realisation that it’s not meant to be. It’s this slightly different take on real-life relationships which marks this film apart from other rom-com failures. This movie may be a bit disappointing in the plotline department however, it’s funny and it’s interesting and for those who’ve experienced complicated break-ups it will definitely ‘spark’ some recognition. 

3 STARS