Film Review: Ruby Sparks

Ruby SparksWriter and titular star of Ruby Sparks, Zoe Kazan, has some pretty big shoes to fill. She’s the daughter of screenwriters Nicholas Kazan and Robin Swicord, whilst her grandfather is the legendary writer and director Elia Kazan, most famous for On The Waterfront. That’s quite the heritage, but if this, her debut as a writer, is anything to go by, she’s obviously picked up a thing or two.

Ruby Sparks, directed by husband and wife duo Jonathan Drayton and Valerie Faris of Little Miss Sunshine fame, is the story of Calvin War-Fields (Paul Dano), a young novelist hailed as the next big thing in American literature thanks to his debut novel. However, his follow up is proving a struggle and he doesn’t know where to begin. Calvin starts writing about his perfect girl, called Ruby, and is shocked when the girl he’s invented comes to life and he’s able to control her entire life through his writing.

The film starts sweetly and simply enough. Calvin has everything except someone to love and have love him back. So, when he is able to create his perfect woman, everything plays out almost like an indie romantic comedy. And this girl is real, by the way, not just a figment of his imagination. His whole family can see her, so this is no examination of split-personality disorder or anything like that. So, it’s a relatively happy, quirky film, but in the second half things take a much darker twist, and this is Ruby Sparks’ trump card.

As Ruby starts to live her life, Calvin discovers there are things he doesn’t like about her and decides to change her. Calvin becomes a control freak and doesn’t want Ruby to have a life outside of him and ends up almost completely rewriting her. This is an obvious look at how someone in a relationship may try to control and change someone else and the destructive effects this can have. It’s quite an unexpected turn the film takes but it’s one that gives it much more depth it might otherwise have had.

Something that is bound to be a bone of contention is the film’s ending. It is one that seems simple upon first viewing but the more you think about it, the more different interpretations it can have, many of which are, unfortunately, rather unsatisfying. It’s a shame that a film that feels so original is let down by an ending that, in an attempt to be clever, ultimately feels awkward. Of course, many others may feel differently about this and feel that it works perfectly.

It’s a relatively small cast but performances are great all round, which really helps build a tight and focused film. A sub plot regarding Calvin’s mother and step father feels a little underdeveloped but doesn’t at all hamper enjoyment. Despite some misgivings about the ending, Ruby Sparks is a delightful debut from Kazan and a hopeful sign of great things to come.

4 pigeons

4/5 pigeons

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34 thoughts on “Film Review: Ruby Sparks

  1. keith7198 says:

    Nice review! This was such a surprise for me. I was expecting NOTHING and I really enjoyed it.

  2. Great! I love learning something new. I’ve put this film in my “next to watch” pile. Thanks!

  3. filmhipster says:

    So glad you liked it….one of my dark horses of 2012. Very, very rewatchable!

  4. Nice review. But don’t think I enjoyed it quite as much as you. Great premise and good performances… but it lost me about half way through. Obviously the plot isn’t ‘real’ but I just didn’t believe in the way the characters behaved enough to go along with all the way. And the ending… urgh, the ending… 😉

    • Thanks man! With this film I think it’s really important that you totally buy into the premise and what’s happening, otherwise it could seem a bit ridiculous. And yeah the ending was a big letdown for me after what had gone before. I’d have much preferred it if they had just parted ways completely.

  5. elena says:

    I loved this film a lot but I kinda agree that the ending felt… awkward. I liked how it got so dark, though, it was a nice twist. I’m really looking forward to Kazan’s future works now, too. 😛

    • I loved how dark it got. It could have been a run of the mill rom com but it turned pretty sinister, which really worked for it. But the ending was a bit disappointing. There are so many issues with the fact it implies they start over again. Would have preferred it if he’d just let her go and live her life on her own.

  6. Popcorn Nights says:

    I’ve got this queued up to watch soon, funnily enough. Sounds interesting – I read a brief review last year and not much else until your review. Very interesting cast!

  7. Mark Walker says:

    Great movie Chris. I really enjoyed and rated it very highly. I was expecting it to be sone dull romcom but it had a lot more meat on it bones than that. Impressive outing for young Kazan. Great review, man.

  8. Dan Heaton says:

    I didn’t mind the ending, but I can see what you’re saying. I think Kazan was looking to write a cute final meeting that isn’t clear and just works as a great image. I was surprised by the dark turns the story took in the third act, but they made it more interesting at the same time.

    • The dark turns were definitely surprising but I think that’s what made the film and ensured it wasn’t just some average rom com. Yeah I can see what Kazan was trying to do with the ending – or perhaps what she was encouraged to do with the ending – but it felt a little too easy and predictable.

  9. Great review. I felt the ending was a bit odd as well, especially after that very dark climax, but in general I liked the movie a lot and it was one of my favorites from 2012. Zoe Kazan is a great talent both as an actress and writer. And I really enjoyed Dano and Chris Messina.

    • Thanks Fernando. Yeah the ending really seemed at odds with how dark it went. The perfect ending for me would have been him leaving her in the park to live her life and I was actually quite taken aback when that didn’t happen. Very impressed with Kazan, a bright future ahead me thinks!

  10. ruth says:

    Great review Chris!! I was fortunate enough to see this film with the cast and crew (Paul Dano was such a nice guy), and I really think it’s a great film despite the ending. I think it overstayed its welcome, I’ve have preferred it if it ended 10 min sooner.

    That said, it’s a great screenwriting effort from Kazan and Dano was just superb.

    • Thanks Ruth! Wow, that must have been pretty amazing! Would love to go to something like that at some point. I was fine with the film’s length, it was more the direction the ending took. I felt it was a little too generic compared to what had come before. Still, I thought the film was great and I really hope Kazan follows it up with something equally as impressive.

      • ruth says:

        Oh yeah, I’m fine w/ the running time, it’s just the ending seemed I dunno, forced?? I think I’d have preferred it to end when he was doing a reading of his novel. But when he got to he park I was like, hmmm, this is too rom-com-y. Still it’s an impressive film overall w/ great performances.

      • Yeah i think forced is a good way to describe it, as if they wanted to tack a happy ending on.

  11. nediunedited says:

    Nice review! 🙂

    This was a lovely surprise–and yes, I am excited about what Kazan has for us in the future. Wonderful potential.

  12. Nice review! I must make time for this one, it looks excellent 🙂

  13. sati says:

    This and “Safety not Guaranteed” are two films that look really cute and are on my watchlist but somehow I can’t bring myself to watching them 😦

  14. le0pard13 says:

    I have this in my stack and your fine review is making me move it up! Thanks for this, tm.

  15. I was very impressed with this one and I couldn’t wait to see it. when I did, I was glad I watched it AFTER Safety Not Guaranteed. (While I liked SNG, I think I saved the better one for last). Ruby Sparks was so great and captivating.

    “This is an obvious look at how someone in a relationship may try to control and change someone else and the destructive effects this can have. It’s quite an unexpected turn the film takes but it’s one that gives it much more depth it might otherwise have had.” —completely agree. and I felt the same way about the ending as you did.

    great review

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