You wish you were a writer. It is through the magic of well-crafted words and imagination that one can fashion beautiful worlds, compelling characters, emotional situations, and, well, women. It is the fantasy of so many artists that is at the heart of Ruby Sparks: creating your ideal piece of work. In this case, it is a precocious, red-haired optimist who is envisioned from the mind of an anti-social and idealistic writer.
If it could only happen to you.
This is not a new story by any stretch of the imagination, with screenwriters and playwrights having their hand at a notion that dates as far back as Greek mythology when Pygmalion carved a statue that came to life and took his heart. Ruby Sparks is less Weird Science and more Lars and the Real Girl (with maybe a bit of Frankenstein and Manhattan), but certainly has the wit and heart that directors Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris cultivated in Little Miss Sunshine.
It is as much about falling in love with art as it is finding a muse, as it is learning how to be in a relationship. A young, average-looking, successful novelist is facing writer’s block, as well as an uneventful social life that once involved a relationship with a girl by the name of Lila. On the advice of his therapist (a marvelous Elliot Gould who has the beard of a therapist), Calvin Weir-Fields sets out to write about an ideal meeting with an ideal girl, an encounter that evolves, entering his dreams until at last, this paragon of a woman comes to life.
Enter Ruby Sparks, a girl whose name comes already implying a variety of personality traits as only a writer can do—and did. You don’t need to see the lovely Zoe Kazan (the 28-year old also wrote the screenplay to the film) in the trailer to have an idea of what her Ruby will look and act like. Red hair, of course, and don’t forget a few freckles. Colourful dresses and a bright smile, naturally. Warm and welcoming, and inclined to have fun, Ruby Sparks makes a very lovely girlfriend – and whatever Calvin writes about her, happens.
Still, this story of whimsy and caprice, with Calvin wielding so much power, becomes simply so universal and relatable. Calvin has tried to create the perfect woman, which is admittedly envious (especially as a writer), but he is not even sure what he wants, and he goes through what one can only suspect are common emotions expressed by those young and romantic. He learns what it is like to enjoy someone’s company, but he has to learn to let her enjoy herself when she isn’t with him. He doesn’t know if he wants her more independent or codependent, more exciting or calm, more active or anti-social.
As expected, he has created something he cannot control. The drama starts to build during a weekend getaway to see Calvin’s family, with his quirky (and yet not annoying) parents welcoming him and Ruby to their woodlands escape. Annette Bening and Antonio Banderas play mom and stepdad, and though they are a bit of hippie stereotypes, their outlandish behavior somehow fits naturally in the movie, and balances out Calvin’s descent into the uncertainly and hopelessness of love.
Not novel, but certainly well-done and refreshing, it is hard not to fall for Calvin and his ideal creation. ‘Love is magic,’ is a common motto throughout the film, but the reverse is true as well. Magic, art, creation, are acts driven and maintained by love, and often imperfect; it just takes some time to figure it all out.