2. Ruby Sparks (2012)
movies seen in 2013
Ca Plane Pour Moi :: Plastic Bertrand
I knew pretty quickly that Ruby Sparks would wind up on my list of favorite movies. There is something so me in this film, so what I love, so in my movie loving wheelhouse. My oldest daughter, who watched it with me, said pretty much the same thing to me as it ended, that it was very much a “me movie“, especially the writer part of who I am.
I could not agree more.
There were parts of this movie that reminded me of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, other parts that were reminiscent of 500 Days of Summer, and then, of course, the commonality of a writer manifesting a character from their own writing, as also seen in Stranger Than Fiction. That is some great film company to be in, and all three films mentioned are all-time favorites of mine.
It would be too simple to call Ruby Sparks a love story, and it would limit all the complexities that are within this story too much to affix the “love” label on it, that said, it is the kind of story of love and relationships that I embrace, and fall for – the kind that is real and raw, flawed and vulnerable, full of mistakes, but still ultimately beautiful. The story in this film is all of those things about love stories that I do love, especially how real their relationship, and love, felt to me.
Real may seem like an odd term to use when discussing a film that is about a fictional character come to life to be in a relationship the author who created them, but what happens between Calvin and Ruby is very real. Calvin is a lonely and sad writer who once wrote a great novel and once had a great romance, or at least a romance, but as we meet Calvin he is alone and struggling with what seems like years of writer’s block. He is in therapy, he is noticably unhappy, he has a dog he does not seem to like very much (though the flaws he notes in the dog are representative of his own flaws and fears), and his only friend seems to be his brother.
Calvin feels he was terribly hurt and rejected by his ex-girlfriend who apparently left him soon after his father’s death. An interesting moment, for me, is when we meet his ex later in the film and realize that we only know part of the story, just like in any break-up, there is always another side, and she definitely has one that is not as heartless as Calvin had described. That moment is one glimpse into seeing Calvin below his surfaces, and where his responsibilities lie in his own unhappiness.
The dynamics that arise between Ruby and Calvin are so riveting to watch, so intricate and at times so complicated. It is hard not to recognize our own fears and weaknesses in love and relationships while watching Calvin’s come to the surface. His controlling nature, fueled by insecurity, was the hardest part for me to watch as I related to it so much. The scene where it all breaks open (the “you’re a genius” part, for those who have seen the film) was one of the roughest film scenes I have watched in a very long time.
There is rough stuff here, there is heartbreak, but there is hope and love and honesty amongst it, too. There are also some damn fine performances by Paul Dano, Zoe Kazan (who also wrote the film), Annette Bening, Antonio Banderas, Elliott Gould, Chris Messina (who I really did not used to like, but who is growing on me this year – and also – is this actor in everything lately, or what?) and Deborah Ann Woll.
Another moment that I enjoyed, and had me thinking and deconstructing after the credits rolled, was Calvin’s perception of Ruby. How his incarnation made real is the quintessential “cool girl“, the girl that bucks the typical stereotypes, yet is good at the stereotypical things (keeping house, cooking, etc.), who enjoys arcades and movies, cooks amazing dinners, gets along with the family and friends, is funny, is adventurous in bed, allows our partner the space we need without taking space for ourselves, etc. There is this part in the book Gone Girl (Gillian Flynn) where one of the two main characters, Amy, talks about the myth of the “cool girl“, how she tried to be one for awhile, but how they are not real, how they are works of fiction, how they are a lie. How Calvin sees, and eventually tries to mold Ruby, reminds me of that take on the “cool girl” mythos.
This is a film about control, about fear, about letting go, about trusting love and trusting someone to be themselves, and for you to be yourself, and still stay together. This is a story about love, but not necessarily a love story. This is one of those films that I wanted to turn back on immediately and watch again when it finished, a film I will re-watch again and again, I just know it, a film I already am adding to my list of favorites.
Calvin Weir-Fields: “This is the true and impossible story of my very great love. In the hope that she will not read this and reproach me, I have withheld many telling details: her name, the particulars of her birth and upbringing, and any identifying scars or birth marks. All the same, I cannot help but write this for her, to tell her “I’m sorry for every word I wrote to change you, I’m sorry for so many things. I couldn’t see you when you were here and, now that you’re gone, I see you everywhere.” One may read this and think it’s magic, but falling in love is an act of magic, so is writing. It was once said of Catcher In The Rye, “That rare miracle of fiction has again come to pass: a human being has been created out of ink, paper and the imagination.” I am no J.D. Salinger, but I have witnessed a rare miracle. Any writer can attest: in the luckiest, happiest state, the words are not coming from you, but through you. She came to me wholly herself, I was just lucky enough to be there to catch her.”