Friday, August 3, 2012

Ruby Sparks

An introverted, sensitive young man who desperately needs to break out of his shell.  A "perfect," artistic, free-spirited young woman.  He's never met anyone like her, but in no time at all she's changed his life forever.  Words like quirky and indie are thrown around to describe the story.  Foreign (or at least, independent) music overscores a fun, flirty montage or two. 

What movie am I describing?  Take your pick--there are several from even the last decade or so that would fit.  It's practically formulaic.

The problem with the formula, of course, is spelled out nicely and early by a supporting character in the new film Ruby Sparks: girls like this don't exist.  Stories like this aren't real.  No perfect, flawed, free spirit is going to jump into our protagonist author's life and rescue him from his ennui.

So he'll just have to create her.

Enter Ruby Sparks, a silly, quirky name for the "perfect girl" character.  She pops out of the head of its protagonist Calvin (played nicely by Paul Dano) and later literally out of the pages of his novel.  One obviously has to have a bit of a willing suspension of disbelief, but the film makes a smart choice in deciding not to explain or even really analyze its magic.  Calvin has somehow willed this girl into existence, and that's all there is to it.  His brother is naturally skeptical but it doesn't take long for him to accept the circumstances either.  This works much better than bogging down the film with reasons why.

Up until this point, this review likely seems like a negative one.  Unrealistic characters, cliched plotlines, and silly names.  It's a credit to writer Zoe Kazan, who also stars as Ruby, that the film not only overcomes these would-be shortcomings, it uses them to great effect.  I am always partial to stories that acknowledge their tropes and re-used ideas, and even more so to those that deconstruct them altogether.  It's part of why I enjoyed this year's Cabin in the Woods so much. 

While I'm not sure how I feel about the final scene of the film, the ride up to it was enjoyable.  There are a few scenes--and a few lines in particular--that have a way of sticking with you.  Perhaps I fit nicely into the target audience, but I recommend the film.

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