Quirky Boy Seeks Delusion: Ruby Sparks (2012) Review ****
Last night I dreamt of boy with blue eyes. He found me in at the bar in a sleazy night club, returning my friend to me having found her pooping in the DJ booth. He was tall, with wavy hair and told me that he'd screwed his home economics teacher resulting in an unwanted pregnancy and a tumultuous custody battle. He was honest, or so I could tell by looking into his red, puffy eyes. Childless and penniless, he'd moved from street to street, all over town. He was my dream boy.
The next day, I wrote about him on the back of a used tissue I had in my pocket. And now the bastard is pissing in my shower and riddling my PC with viruses as he Googles 'Sexy Girl-on-Girl Horseplay'.
His name is Rusty Flares...
That's the basis of this melancholic dramedy, with a modern 'Manic Pixie Dream Girl' twist. And, jokes aside, it works well. (I don't know why I felt the need for Rusty but Rusty shall stay.)
Be careful what you wish for. That's what our protagonist, Calvin (Performed interestingly by Paul Dano), discovers when he conjures his own dream girl through the power of his magic typewriter by the name of Ruby Sparks. Suddenly his decade long writers-block, doesn't seem so troublesome to him. Feeding off the fame from his previous book, uptight and set in his ways, craving 'real love' from a woman rather than a 'fan', Ruby comes as a cry for help to be loved by Calvin. In time, however, Ruby isn't all she's cracked up to be, but the writer has a solution for that. And he returns to the typewriter again.
"How harmful is that fantasy to real life?"
From the directors that brought us Little Miss Sunshine, Johnathan Dayton and Valerie Faris followed up their quirky masterpiece with an equally quirky romance. It had been on my watch-list for years and to this day I don't know how I hadn't gotten around to it, but a spur of the moment decision led to an evening with the flatmates eating crisps and engaging in something fluffy and light. That wasn't quite what we got.
It's a wonderful criticism on the male fantasy. The role of the writer is called-out. What is their responsibility? The crafting of characters can become bizarre wish-fulfillment which is every writers right. But does one have to draw the line somewhere? When reality meets and enters fantasy? How harmful is that fantasy to real life? The average writer probably wouldn't think that deep but the film enters a dark realm where the role of the 'dream girl' progresses into something more realistic and depressing. That may be for the better.
"The film is dated by it's quirk but not by it's message."
Zoe Kazan penned this and performed as the titular role. To gain the perspective of a woman on this much discussed character trope brings a new light on the topic. She asks the question: With the harsh expectations placed on women to be the fantasy, what is the woman's responsibility to a man? And if a man could change those flaws when things became too challenging, would he? Would he try to understand them? These are all things this film seems to illuminate. She can't answer them for sure but she sure leaves us with an interesting after thought. Kazan brings to the role a dignity that other 'manic pixie dream girls' have been deprived of (We're looking at you Elizabethtown) and feels like a final say on the whole matter.
The film is dated by it's quirk but not by it's message. The first half an hour we were distracted by much of the 'quirkiness': the typewriter, the costumes, the dialogue. All a bit edgy. But once the story kicked in, one could look past all that and enjoy the story for what it is.
The cast is pretty darn good. Calvin's brother, performed with great comedic edge by Chris Messina is the experienced brother. Who has actually lived with and raised a child with a woman. He is the one who shines a light on the reality of relationships and we slowly learn throughout the film through him and other side characters that Calvin may not be such a victim in love after all. Another stand out is Antonio Banderas, as Calvin's mothers (Played by Annette Bening) new husband. Delightful, strange and a wonderful affinity with the pet dog Scottie, his presence in scenes are funny and undoubtedly enjoyable.
Not my favourite although I would probably have loved it back in 2012. But as an older, wiser old maid it feels over-powered by it's need to be 'indie'. But the premise is not wasted. Calvin is hardly a hero and Ruby is more than just a dream. Love isn't easy, it plays it hard and fast with no mercy. But that's where love becomes a unity, and this film feels like it's reminding us of that. No mater what we want to believe, the reality is actually better than the idea, if we give a chance.
It's time to set Rusty Flares aside.