Reel Reviews | Ruby Sparks

A novelist struggling with writer’s block discovers the true power of imagination when the subject of his novel comes to life in the romantic comedy, Ruby Sparks.

After the success of his first novel ten years earlier, Calvin (Paul Dano) is fraught with fear working on his follow-up. Anxiety-ridden and uncomfortable with people, he spends lonely hours at home looking for any diversion that may provide inspiration when not spending time with his brother (Chris Messina) or dog, Scotty.

During his weekly session with his shrink (Elliott Gould), he suggests that Paul visualize and write down his thoughts. Soon Calvin is having vivid dreams about an attractive woman and upon waking undergoes a creative tsunami of writing activity. He finds himself writing to spend time with his new creation, Ruby Sparks (Zoe Kazan), giving her a history while transferring his awkwardness with women to someone he can love.

Several days later, Calvin is surprised to discover that his creation has come to life out of thin air – and is in his kitchen cooking breakfast. Initially confused, he soon discovers that not only is she flesh-and-blood real, but that his imagination and desires can make Ruby do anything he pleases. The two get along swimmingly at the beginning of their relationship until Calvin discovers that perfect love doesn’t exist, even in our imagination.

Co-directed by the team that created Little Miss Sunshine, Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris and written by Kazan, Ruby Sparks is an engaging, creative romantic premise that succeeds largely because of the chemistry between its two leads. Absolutely cute in an unorthodox way, Kazan radiates as the woman in Calvin’s life who brings love and light to his soul before asserting his independence and discovering its unfortunate side effects.

While the leads are terrific, co-stars Annette Benning and Antonio Banderas are wasted as Calvin’s free-spirited parents. Likewise, Gould as his shrink and Steve Coogan as a jealous, frustrated writer aren’t given a lot to do, either. Primarily there to challenges Calvin along the way as he attempts to navigate his relationship where there is precious little of wiggle room for free will. Even with his occasional tweaks along the way, Calvin still can’t find satisfaction.

This story, based on an idea popularized in the 1960s Twilight Zone episode, A World of His Own and later updated in Michel Gondry’s sweet love story, The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, is a living testament that true love can may delayed but if two people are drawn to each other, their love will always lead them back together.

Grade: B