I love movies. Let’s get that out of the way. I love ‘meeting’ new characters, getting to know their problems, wishes, fears, excitements, messes.
I love seeing them fall in love, get fired from their jobs and discover their true passions in life, and I love seeing them get chased and shot at by mob gangsters too.
After years of sitting in cinemas and almost puking at the sight of Gerard Butler in yet another unfunny rom-com (that’s a lie, I never go to the cinema to watch Gerard Butler movies), I began to despair at the genre of ‘rom-com’.
They’re two concepts that should go hand in hand by nature. Love, like anything in life that is fun, must be funny too. So why is Hollywood completely missing that point?
Ruby Sparks, thankfully, found one of those crevices in our imaginations that as yet have been unexplored and exploded it onto a big screen, telling us a story about a couple too perfect for each other.
Too perfect, in fact, that it can’t be real.
We know the basics already: Calvin is a writer, stranded in that ‘difficult second book’ mode and desperate for inspiration. Thanks to the urging of his therapist, he picks up his typewriter and writes about a girl who regularly haunts his dreams.
The next morning, he awakes to find her; fully formed of flesh and bone and draped in one of his shirts, calling from the kitchen, “I missed you in bed last night”.
The next 15 minutes are spent determining whether she is a real person (she is, by the by), or if Calvin’s over-active imagination may have taken a step closer to Crazy.
But, the couple have a magical day out in arcades and nightclubs of Los Angeles, living the sweet honeymoon life.
It really is a fantastic movie. Sure, it has that ‘quality’ that’s often found in Nancy Meyers movies: each shot looks like it was sponsored by Pottery Barn in association with Kodak. But it takes twists and turns from the hilarious to the heart-warming, from the light and fluffy to the raw and emotional.
I will warn you: the tone changes at the beginning of the third act. You really do need that warning, because otherwise it hits you like a big yellow school bus.
When Calvin realises he can transform anything about redhead Ruby’s personality at the press of a typewriter key, he vows never to alter her; frankly he’s just glad she’s there.
But the quirky and sunny turns grim very suddenly when she gets a little too close to Steve Coogan’s sleazy writer at a party. The film climaxes when he proves to her that he can change her before her eyes.
The scene spins out of control as Calvin types his commands, it’s frankly hideous to watch, because Ruby is 100% at his mercy, and only when Calvin completely loses it and smashes his typewriter does she totally cut free of him.
What makes a good movie is the effect on the audience. The Shawshank Redemption is a celebration of freedom; Toy Story reminds us of our childhoods; Gulliver’s Travels teaches us how much we really want to throw things at Jack Black.
But I’ll tell you about what happened after I left the cinema seeing Ruby Sparks. Firstly, the last half an hour had sent me to stun mode. But it took me less than 2 minutes for me get to the loo, get out of my trance and say to my mates: “I WON’T LET A MAN CONTROL MEEEE!”
Zoe Kazan, writer and actress, I salute you, feminist to feminist. In a world where you can’t enter an IKEA store without being bowled over by numerous hipster couples re-enacting their favourite scene from their favourite movie, you’ve managed to exploit the concept of the Manic Pixie Dream Girl and prove that people are about much more than their favourite things.
Also, you have a wonderful head of ginger hair in this movie.
Ruby has real hopes and dreams (and a real brain too) but Calvin only wants her to devote her life to him and tell him he’s a genius. It does beg the question…is this really what men still want? In this day and age, it’s kind of a horrifying thought.
The movie is well shot and fantastically cast, Chris Messina as Calvin’s brother is a revelation; he’s a seriously undercast actor. But Paul Dano and Zoe Kazan are the real deal. As they are a couple in real life, they have great chemistry as Calvin and Ruby.
I can see this being a real launch pad for Kazan’s career. Can I get a ‘hallelujah’? Because we need more of this kind of thing; I despair so much every time I see an R’n’B music video, I feel like crying.
Ruby Sparks is out now, and you can check out the trailer here.