On Reading/Writing Ruby Sparks (Jonathan Dayton & Valerie Faris, 2012)


Calvin (Paul Dano) is a genius. But he hates that word. His breakthrough novel is celebrating its tenth year anniversary, his colleagues are excited on what’s he’s currently working on, his brother thinks he should get laid more. He lives in a nice writerly house, with his neatly arranged books and a vintage typewriter; he loves his dog Scotty, named after F. Scott Fritzgerald. One night he dreams about a girl. He shares this with his therapist; he suggests Calvin should writer about her, to treat his writer’s block. The dreams persists, Calvin becomes euphoric. He goes to sleep just to see the girl, wake up, and write again. He’s back in the game. One morning, his dream girl, Ruby Sparks (Zoe Kazan, also the scriptwriter) comes to life. A person entirely made up of Calvin’s ideas and words, walking, talking, and cooking in his writer’s lair. And he can change her anytime, using his typewriter. But he won’t, she’s perfect.

They live together, go on dates, make love, he introduces her to his family and friends, until little by little Calvin learns that the moment fantasy meets reality it becomes a nightmare. One night, Ruby acts independently, going out with friends, Calvin writes her to be miserable without him. She becomes miserable, comes home to his arms. He wants her to be happy, she becomes disturbingly happy. He writes Ruby to be just the way she is, and she becomes, well, just the way she is. Still, they get into a fight. Calvin is dumb folded. Why is it so difficult to be with someone perfect? With the help of a confrontation with his ex, Calvin learns he’s the one with the problem. The quirky romance in the first part of the film is forgotten in a dark scene where Calvin’s artistic demons are laid bare for all of us. Calvin sets Ruby free.

My reading of the film is very simple; the pedestal where artists and any other great talent are placed has thin air. While creating a world, Calvin suffocated. Writers interpret a world where they are a part of. If you can’t accept this, the lonely, exhausting life of art is not for you. Lastly, Calvin is what I would call career writer, whose primary intention is to please formalist critics and readers. An artist detached from the worldly politics and struggle of life. I would have placed Ruby Sparks in league with masterpieces like Fellini’s La Dolce Vita and , but in the end, it was too afraid to totally kill off the magic of art, which contrary to popular belief, is made up of both joy and loss.


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