Review of Ruby Sparks

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A novelist struggling with writer's block finds romance in a most unusual way; by creating a female character he thinks will love him, then willing her into existence. Paul Dano stars as the main character, the writer, while Antonio Banderas, Annette Bening, Alia Shawkat and Zoe Kazan play supporting roles. Kazan actually wrote the screenplay for the film.
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Movie Review: "Ruby Sparks"

-- Rating: R
Length: 104 minutes
Release Date: July 25, 2012
Directed by: Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris
Genre: Comedy/Fantasy/Romance

"Ruby Sparks" has been called yet another incarnation of the Pygmalion story. However, few people can see the correlation between "Ruby Sparks" and a story about a rich man who tries to civilize a poor English florist girl. Actually, this Pygmalion relationship goes back much farther than the story written in the early 1900s. It harkens back to Greek mythology, wherein thoughts and dreams are powerful, gods did as they pleased and no one batted an eye when girls materialized out of thin air. This story began with a sculptor who formed a girl out of stone. He fell so in love with the statue that he willed it to life. They made a family together and lived happily ever after. In "Ruby Sparks," the story is slightly more complex.

First, the main character, Calvin, is a writer whose success at a young age has brought him the inability to create again. It has also crushed his ability to find love. This makes him more attractive to women, but the man wants something more. In therapy, he begins talking about a girl he made up, Ruby Sparks. The session leads to writing and more concoction until, one day, he sees her. Soon, the girl is in Calvin's home. Worse, everyone else can see her, too. She looks and acts just as he imagined, responding to adjustments made when Calvin types about her. He has the power to make Ruby do and say everything that a good girlfriend does. Yes, folks, you will find that there is a catch.

The original Pygmalion in Greek mythology and "Ruby Sparks" have a lot in common. Both artists begin creating using their tools and mediums of choice. They decorate, clothe and name their creations. However, Pygmalion did not have a domineering brother or hippy parents. He also didn't have complete control over his lover. These elements make "Ruby Sparks" less about how love is related to passion and more about what it takes to make and keep a healthy relationship.

At first, Ruby seems like a victim of Calvin's ego. However, it becomes apparent that they are both metaphysically dysfunctional characters, like many others out there. Through Calvin, the audience will learn that there is more to the perfect relationship than having an appeasing mate. Each partner must be fulfilled. Each partner must also have equal control over their own decisions and actions. In the end, Calvin shows men everywhere that having a woman who does your bidding is not exactly what it is cracked up to be. In fact, you end up learning some dastardly things about yourself that were best left buried in the dark parts of the soul.

There must be something said about the metaphysical elements that writer and actor Zoe Kazan-playing Ruby in this film-sprinkled throughout the script. They make this look at the remains of creation and destruction of a relationship more than the typical romantic comedy fare. Instead, there are plenty of points to ponder and ideas to take home once the final credits begin to roll. Like "Stranger than Fiction," "Ruby Sparks" plays with the power of the creative mind and the effects that the creation has on the artist. Although Ruby is real to the people in the film, to Calvin, she is still a character in his book. The characters, and soon the audience, are wrapped up in the fact that she is a real girl: his girl. Calvin never lets this thought go, and that is the real difference between "Ruby Sparks" and the Pygmalion myth. It is also the reason why the romance seems doomed, taking on a dark feel during the later parts of the film.

Paul Dano as Calvin expertly morphs into the dopey and hopeless soul who is desperate enough to make this story work. Zoe Kazan makes viewers love and sympathize with Ruby from the start, while the parents played by Annette Benning and Antonio Banderas make us wonder who Calvin's real parents are. Together with the rest of the amazing cast, Calvin and Ruby's saga becomes a very intriguing one that reminds us how great romantic comedies can be.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars