Ruby Sparks (R)


Movie Info

Rating: * * 

Cast: Paul Dano, Zoe Kazan, Chris Messina, Deborah Ann Woll, Elliott Gould, Steve Coogan, Annette Bening, Antonio Banderas.

Directors: Jonathan Dayton, Valerie Faris.

Screenwriter: Zoe Kazan.

Producers: Albert Berger, Ron Yerxa.

A Fox Searchlight Pictures release. Running time: 104 minutes. Vulgar language, sexual situations, drug use, adult themes. In Miami-Dade: Aventura, Sunset Place, South Beach; in Broward: Palace, Gateway; in Palm Beach: Shadowood, Delray.

She comes to him in a dream, this spirited, red-haired young woman named Ruby Sparks (Zoe Kazan), who is cute and funny and smart (but not in an annoying, bookish way) and even likes to play with his adorable dog. Calvin (Paul Dano) falls in love with her instantly, and when he wakes up, he starts to write about her. Finally, the inspiration for his long-delayed second novel has arrived. At night, Calvin dreams of Ruby; in the day, he writes to spend more time with her.

And then, one morning, he walks out of his bedroom, and she’s standing there in his kitchen, making him breakfast. The best stuff comes early in Ruby Sparks, which was written by Kazan (granddaughter of Elia) and directed by the husband and wife team of Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris ( Little Miss Sunshine). Calvin isn’t seeing things: Ruby is really there, in the flesh, and other people can see her, including his older brother Harry (Chris Messina), who had started to wonder if Calvin was going crazy with all this talk about his imaginary girlfriend.

“Quirky, messy women whose problems make them endearing aren’t real,” says Harry, who is happily married but admits he sometimes looks at his wife and has no idea who she is. The premise of Ruby Sparks, which is a clever riff on Pygmalion, explores what happens after Calvin magically conjures up his dream girl (the how is never explained) and discovers that he can make her do anything he wants simply by writing it into his novel. If she’s being too clingy, he can fix it with “Ruby needed some time to herself.” If she’s being too distant, he can change that with “Ruby missed him terribly.” After a while, Calvin decides it is unfair to control Ruby in that way. He promises Harry, the only one who knows his secret, that he’s locking away his manuscript and will never “write” her again.

But how long can he hold out? Ruby Sparks poses some intriguing questions about what men want from women and the compromises people make in order to keep their love for each other going. When Calvin takes Ruby to meet his mother (Annette Bening), he is struck by her relentlessly happy bond with her new husband (Antonio Banderas) and wonders how they manage to keep the excitement from seeping out of their marriage (their method: drugs, pool parties and a hippie lifestyle).

Calvin, who was perpetually single and lonely before Ruby entered his life, doesn’t make many demands on his girlfriend. But inevitably she starts becoming restless and bored of their routine (“You don’t have any friends,” she observes coldly one night). The temptation to pull out his novel and write Ruby a new attitude grows stronger. And that is where the movie sadly veers off-track into allegory. Instead of forcing Calvin (wonderfully played by Dano) to grow up and confront the complexity of his relationship, Ruby Sparks opts for a seemingly darker but ultimately easier resolution, one that involves magic and fantasy and the sort of neat, happily-ever-after finales that only exist in movies. Just when Calvin was starting to learn just how messy true love can be, Ruby Sparks wimps out on him. The dog really is cute, though.

Read more Reeling with Rene Rodriguez stories from the Miami Herald

 <span class="cutline_leadin">‘Life Itself’:</span> Gene Siskel, left, and Roger Ebert get into one of their countless arguments during the taping of their TV show.

    Life Itself (R)

    There are scholars who blame Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel for dumbing down film criticism with their thumbs-up, thumbs-down approach, the same way they blame Steven Spielberg and George Lucas for ruining movies with the success of Jaws and Star Wars. But Siskel and Ebert accomplished just the opposite: They popularized criticism and introduced it to the masses via their PBS show in which they spent a lot of time debating (and fighting) over movies before delivering their final, yes-or-no verdict. The first version of their show, which was titled Sneak Previews and aired on PBS in the late 1970s, led me to read Pauline Kael and Film Comment and American Film and the Miami Herald’s late, great Bill Cosford as a kid. Suddenly, my nascent love of movies blew up: Movies weren’t just something you watched for entertainment. Sometimes, there was a lot to find beneath their surface.

Caesar (Andy Serkis) leads a war against mankind in “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes.”

    Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (PG-13)

    Yawn of the Planet of the Apes — excuse me, Dawn — has a big-budget sheen, a few terrific action setpieces and some of the most jaw-dropping CGI effects to date: You will believe these apes are real (although some of them are actors wearing costumes).

Chris Evans (center) and Jamie Bell (left) are about to crack some skulls aboard a speeding bullet train in “Snowpiercer.”

    Snowpiercer (R)

    In the near future, mankind attempts to solve the growing problem of global warming by shooting a missile into space that will lower the planet’s thermostat. Instead, the device plunges Earth into another ice age, killing all life except for the people on a huge bullet train that has been circling the globe for 17 years (don’t ask, just go with it).

Miami Herald

Join the

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

  • Marketplace

Today's Circulars

  • Quick Job Search

Enter Keyword(s) Enter City Select a State Select a Category