Ruby Sparks starts with a girl shrouded in unearthly light talking to the audience/ our protagonist- Calvin Weir-Fields. She is the girl he has lately been dreaming about. Calvin is a writer who reached his peak at nineteen with a very successful book and has been trying to write a good enough follow-up ever since. He is at his wits end with his therapist, his agent, his brother and even his weird dog, Scotty. His therapist tries to help him by telling him to write as a person who would like Scotty for all his weirdness, and Calvin's answer to this problem comes as another dream encounter with this mysterious girl, who he names Ruby Sparks. He makes up this whole backstory about her and in many ways, she really is the girl of his dreams and he feels as though he is falling in love with her. He is of course concerned about this attachment of his, but that is nothing compared to when he wakes up to find that Ruby has somehow come to life and is living in his house as his girlfriend. Though at first bewildered by the power of his words, he cannot help but fall more and more in love with this enchanting girl, who doesn't know about the source of her existence. But even though she starts out as his ideal girl, Calvin soon finds that Ruby is just another normal girl with problems and flaws and as much as he wants to control that, somethings are even out of his creative hands.
Ever since I saw the trailer of Ruby Sparks, I was sure that I was going to love it. It seemed to have this wonderful and odd love story and two very endearing leads in the form of Paul Dano and Zoe Kazan. And my goodness, did it deliver! The story was written by Kazan when she was dating Dano (!) and she wrote Calvin with him in mind and also based the story on films like The Purple Rose of Cairo (!!!) and Groundhog Day, that deal with slanted realities. What I like about the story is that it takes this idea of a manic pixie girl, with all the quirks and amazingness and helplessness etc. and completely turns it around. It shows how unrealistic this whole concept is, thus questioning the male gaze and one's idea of perfect soulmates which are always antithetical to the reality of the situation. As shown by the exclamation marks after The Purple Rose of Cairo, I love stories and films that bring the imaginary and the real together, and Ruby Sparks does that. Calvin says something towards the end of the film about how we should not question how it came to be, but accept it and all the magic and loveliness that it brings along with it. And Ruby Sparks is magical and lovely, and also very smart and funny.
The writing would not have been half as effective were it not for the absolutely adorable leads, Paul Dano and Zoe Kazan. I am literally in love with Dano after this film. I mean people who know of my Woody Allen obsession know that I have a thing for neurotic, nervous, intelligent, bespectacled, skinny men who spend a lot of time on the therapist's couch (yes I do know that this is a sort of idealization and contradicts the message of this film, but it is what it is). And Kazan was spot on when she imagined Dano being this character. He is so funny and sweet and sad at the same time. Dano, with all his gangliness, is brilliant with physical comedy. There is a part when he is sneaking down the stairs after he has just realised that Ruby is real and his whole body language is so hilarious at that point. He manages to be charming in all his pathetic neediness, and when during the climax he is being a total bastard, it is also kind of sad because it is obvious that it hurts him to be that way. I thought he was such a fascinating character and Dano truly brought him to life with the oodles and oodles of talent that he has. Kazan too was excellent. She is very pretty, but in the exact way how someone like Ruby Sparks would be. She has some really comic moments too, when Calvin tinkers with her personality and she doesn't realise it. But my favourite thing about her is the the little changes that she brings to the character of Ruby, which is so important because Ruby does end up being someone real and all real people do keep changing like that all the time. Her chemistry with Dano is to die for and she, like him, shines the most in the climax.
There are a few other characters in the film too. Chris Messina plays Harry, Calvin's brother and only confidante who is kind of beguiled by Ruby and her existence. Annette Benning plays Calvin's mother and Antonio Banderas plays her boyfriend. Steve Coogan, Elliot Gould and Deborah Ann Woll too have little but important roles. All together a very good supporting cast. The film is directed by Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris who made another little gem, Little Miss Sunshine. I thought here they made a simple, effective and smart romcom that asks a lot of questions about the creative process and idealization and the reality of relationships and also manages to be heartwarming and really fun.
Ruby Sparks is everything that I look for in a romantic comedy and more. It is actually one of those movies I wish I had written or made. It made me feel happy and fall in love with the characters it portrayed. For all these reasons, it has come right at the top of the list of my favourite films of 2012. I hope you watch it and love it as much as I did.