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Ruby Sparks (2012)

Friday, 8. February 2013

Ruby Sparks
Director: Jonathan Dayton, Valerie Faris
Writer: Zoe Kazan
Cast: Paul Dano, Zoe Kazan, Chris Messina, Toni Trucks, Annette Bening, Antonio Banderas, Aasif Mandvi, Steve Coogan, Deborah Ann Woll, Elliott Gould

Plot:
Calvin (Paul Dano) wrote a critically acclaimed bestseller when he was very young – and has been stuck ever since. He can’t really write anything, he’s afraid that he won’t live up to his own reputation. But then he starts writing about Ruby Sparks (Zoe Kazan) – the perfect girl for him – and literally falls in love with his own creation. That is, until she actually shows up in his kitchen. At first, Calvin believes that he’s finally cracked, but other people can see her, too. And so Calvin doesn’t question it, instead starts enjoying their relationship. But how long can anybody remain perferct?

Ruby Sparks is the perfect take-down of the Manic Pixie Dream Girl trope. And not only that, it is also a wonderfully charming, touching and funny movie with an extremely excellent cast.

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I have to say I’m absolutely impressed by the whole film. I watched it for Paul Dano (because I will watch anything with him in it), but I was afraid that it would end up re-inforcing the MPDG trope, instead of dismanteling it. But I needn’t have worried. Because Zoe Kazan’s script is pretty damn amazing.

The only thing that is even better than the great script is the mind-blowing cast. I expected no less of Paul Dano, but also Zoe Kazan  was fantastic – I really need to watch out for whatever she does next. And let’s not forget the amazing supporting cast: Chris Messina, Annette Bening, Antonio Banderas, Steve Coogan etc etc – they were delightful.

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But really, I can’t get over this script and how completely great it was. The (extremely ugly) scene where Calvin and Ruby fight was one of the most effective, touching and simply strongest scenes I have ever seen in a movie.

This movie could have gone wrong so easily – and it avoids the traps so  gracefully that after having seen it, I practically berated myself for ever doubting that it would be great. Because it was.

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Summarising: Watch it.

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8 comments

  1. #Sculptures carved from egg shells:
    There is also a European/Croatian tradition to carve/scratch eggs for Easter. The eggs must be handled carefully so that the egg membrane stays intact. I think the Croatian minority in Burgenland also has a few very good artists. :)

    … I know this because a) I’m interested in folkstories and traditions and b) because there was this youtube hit where the mod couldn’t tell about the tradition because in German it’s “Eierkratzen” and she just couldn’t say “Very few young women are interested to learn the difficult technique…”.


    • I actually never heard of that tradition. Shame on me, I guess…

      But I can imagine the presenter’s discomfort. They should have just called it something else for the sake of the program.


  2. I don’t know if it is an important tradition.
    Easter is very important and has various special customs in this region. Pagan stuff christianised, plus a minority –> usually makes strong traditions. :)

    Ok, I’ll stop lecturing. Just thought you might like it because it is “your” culture, too (meaning a culture you were living with for a certain time, not necessarily one you identify with). :)


    • Because I grew up in that part I thought I would be familiar with most of the traditions. Oh well.


      • I think not knowing all customs is quite normal. There are too many to know them all.
        I myself was totally surprised by the existence of “Strawman” (“Strohmann” – like a Stephen King figure^^) in various Carinthian regions. Strohmann dances with the all the town’s women to welcome the new year.


  3. While I agree with you when it comes to how good this movie is, I’m not sure I see it as the dismantling of the “Manic Pixie Dream Girl” trope (is that a “real” term, or did you just make that up?) as you do. I think you could rather say that Ruby Sparks was “perfect” (or at least as good as she gets) in the beginning, with her whole manic pixie dream girl-ness still intact. Only when Calvin starts to change her, it goes downhill, and she loses some of the stuff that Calvin fell in love with in the first place. Thus, what I took from the movie was that it wasn’t Ruby Sparks that had to change, but Calvin.

    What fascinated me most about the movie is how it uses its fantastic concept of a dream girl coming to life and Calvins power over her to say something true and powerful about the way love and relationships work. At first, we’re totally smitten by someone, think she/he is perfect. Then we start to notice these little things that annoy us. Then, we either learn to accept them, or we try to change the other person – which can be pretty ugly and/or difficult. Calvin gets a shortcut. He doesn’t have to tell her what he doesn’t like about her, he simply changes it by sitting down in front of his typewriter. And, of course (in a turn of events that reminded me of “Butterfly Effect”) it gets worse with everything he does. A very potent, wonderful and important message, IMHO.

    Anyway, in case you haven’t seen it yet, here’s my take on this movie -> http://www.fictionbox.de/index.php/content/view/12447/88888942/


    • On the Manic Pixie Dream Girl: http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/ManicPixieDreamGirl Not my term, widely used to describe these girls who basically exist for no other reason than to make the male protagonist feel alive and in love. She’s characterised by having no motivation of her own except being wild and different. As that, MPDGs are a personified fantasy – just as Ruby is here. And thinks don’t actually start going downhill in the film when Calvin starts changing here, he starts changing her when she develops needs and a life of her own, when she wants to do things without him. And that is exactly why the whole thing dismantles that trope.

      But you’re right, it works with any kind of fantastic image we might have of a person that can’t live up to reality.


      • Thanks for the link! And there I was, already wanting to credit you with creating such a perfect term *g*

        Ok, I see where you’re getting there. In that regard, you’re definitely right.



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