Ruby Sparks (15)

Directed by Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris
Written by Zoe Kazan
On general release from 12th October 2012

Reviewed by Joe Coventry

Nerdy first time, best selling novelist Calvin (Paul Dano) opens the film on a psychiatrist's couch, seeking help for writer's block and a non-existent sex-life after a five relationship has turned sour. The shrink suggests writing about an ideal girlfriend and Ruby (Zoe Kazan) will change everything in her metamorphosis from written page to reality.

An incubation of the male mind, at first a disbelieving Calvin is followed, in bewildered acknowledgement of Ruby's presence, by testosterone fuelled, married brother Harry (Chris Messina), who is soon mouthing some potential outcomes of moulding Ruby's personality. Perfect as she is for Calvin, all is not rosy from her perspective as the narrative develops. Having already caught him on a lunch date with a literary groupie, who has more than food on her mind, Ruby is furious enough to throw a drink over him and is almost inconsolable in the argument that follows.

While still ticking all the boxes, it becomes apparent that the girl wants to be more than a paper-thin construct, desiring an identity and a life of her own. This includes wanting to meet his parents. He prevaricates but eventually caves in to a visit in which he sulks his way through the stay as Ruby strays further from his desired vision. His mother, Gertrude, luxuriates in her company as does partner Mort who delights in feeding Scotty the dog against Calvin’s wishes.

After returning home, in order to meet his own frustrated expectations, Ruby is made to respond to the whim of the typewriter's keys. At times sad, happy or clingy in wry or comic situations that would be toe-curlingly cringworthy in a real couple, the denouement approaches.

Further tinkering leads to darker mood swings in both as the tension rises to a malicious and vengeful finale. To the jerky and erratic stammer of the keyboard Ruby is maniacally manipulated on invisible strings before collapsing in exhaustion as her torment culminates in a jammed tangle of type bars. Calvin, too, is a spent force and the separation is realised when he sets Ruby free with the last word of, what will be acclaimed as, another hit novel.

In a coda to what has gone before he writes up the book on a computer which speaks volumes in itself. Once again famous, alone and out dog walking in the park, he has a chance encounter with a real-life Ruby. This time the ending is left open.

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