I went into this film knowing absolutely nothing about it, except that Mainstream Chick had seen it and thought maybe as the Arty One, I would get something from it that she did not. Sadly, that is not the case. It is simply one of those interesting concepts that never makes the leap to the screen. The movie stars Paul Dano (There Will Be Blood) as Calvin, a “genius” writer who’s had one early mega-success, but now struggles with severe writer’s block. So his therapist suggests he write just one page, which he is given permission to do badly. And that night a vivid dream about a kooky girl he meets in the park inspires him to run to his old fashioned typewriter, and the prose just pours out onto the page.
This dream girl is the eponymous Ruby Sparks, played by Zoe Kazan (who also wrote the film’s script.) And Calvin cannot stop writing about her. Soon he has a whole manuscript about their relationship and the next thing you know, POOF! She is there in real life in his house. And then of course, all sorts of dilemmas present themselves. If he can write her, he can also rewrite her to make her do whatever he wants. And therein lies the somewhat creepy problem. Does he want this perfect girl, a reflection of himself, or someone who thinks for herself and has all the imperfections that make life interesting?
It is an inventive premise, but somehow, the whole film feels kind of flat. The only time it picks up is when they go to spend a weekend with Calvin’s New Agey Mom and her Beau at their Big Sur compound. Mom is played by the wonderful Annette Bening and the Beau by Antonio Banderas. The scenes there point to what a real loving relationship looks like, and to the fact that there is absolutely no on-screen chemistry whatsoever between Dano and Kazan (who are in fact a real life couple.) Maybe with different casting it would come off more romantic or perhaps it is intentional that this relationship is dysfunctional since it isn’t real, but either way, it isn’t funny or sweet or even very interesting. Directed by Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris, who also brought us the hilarious Little Miss Sunshine, Ruby Sparks might appeal as a home rental, where the expectations are a bit lower, but I can’t recommend running out to see it in a theater.