Calvin (Paul Dano) is an infinitely entertaining and alarmingly true embodiment of all it means to be a writer. His ambitious attempts at re-kindling the creative spark that allows that blissful energy to flow continuously result in a cup of coffee, a walk in the park and a blank page. There was, long ago, an “energy” present in Ruby Sparks’ deserted protagonist – but it seems to have disappeared following the publication of his masterpiece as a teenage wonder-boy. The pressures that come with his being labelled as “a genius” constantly and from all angles seem only to worsen his crippling writers-block.
His therapist, Dr Rosenthal (Elliot Gould), possessing the hilariously sympathetic gait that is so necessary when trying to convey the hopeless comedy of therapy, serves to guide him, comfort him and give viewers the complete package – a figure as tragic and as isolated as Calvin, somebody who lives alone, finds a connection with nobody but his brother, crippled and shamed by his glorified past – will only ever be complete in the hands of a therapist.
Interestingly, the therapist provides more than just comic value. His advice to Calvin is what provides the base for Zoe Kazan’s story to develop. When assigned to write about his idea of the perfect girl, as a way to free himself of his artistic restriction, his heart opens up to a flood of words; pages upon pages of newfound creativity pour out of Calvin until a novel – his much awaited second novel – starts to take shape. And with this, Ruby, the character of Calvin’s imagination appears to him – literally.
The film is caught somewhere in between a rom-com, a dark comedy and a psychological thriller. Initially, Ruby Sparks presents itself as the dream of all men, before turning into an incomprehensible nightmare, and wrapping up with a fuzzy, flowery ending – infused throughout with intelligent humour and quirkiness. The first half of the film, presented as a wonderful fairy-tale, allows the viewer’s imagination to soar, before Ruby’s nature starts to get complicated, and the idea of normality starts to feel like bliss.
Ruby Sparks travels in and out of dreams. One simultaneously thinks back to Calvin’s heavenly realisation that Ruby actually exists, and Ruby’s catastrophic realisation that she is, in fact, a work of fiction; Calvin’s creation. The film becomes both comedy and tragedy, playing with the viewer’s emotions, touching home again and again. Fantasy cleverly intertwines with real life, as Calvin skilfully allows his life to spiral out of control.
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