Sunday, December 2, 2012

Sparks Fly

Poetry Points:

-8/10-

Take my advice right now and go out and rent Ruby Sparks...

 
*



Now, first off I want you to trust me on this, because, I'm going to be honest with you right now - you're going to want to give up on this movie in the first thirty minutes or so...
 
Why? 
 
Because, really. . .

You've going to think you seen this Ruby Sparks film about a million times in the past ten, or maybe even 60 years.  

 
But trust me kid, you've got it all wrong.
 

Make the mistake of  ending your viewing party early, and you're going to miss out on the best punchline all year ...


Here's the premise:

You've got a cute, messy-haired, romantically handicapped Quarterlife named Calvin Weir-Fields, played by dashingly geeky Paul Dano - (Dano portrayed the intense, quiet  older brother in  2006's Little Miss Sunshine).  So Calvin's like this, preternaturally serious writer who dropped out of high school and went on to publish a wildly successful novel at the age of 19.
 
 
 
His book earned him respect in both the entertainment and intellectual communities, and made him pretty financially comfortable...(okay rich).
 
But Alas, Calvin was none the luckier with the ladies, and even less luckier with making male friends. His brother, Harry, (played by the yummy Chris Messina Devil), is just about Calvin's only friend, (other than his dog, Scotty). But poor scotty is equally inept at social interaction and makes Calvin feel even more inadequate.
 
To top it all off, the lonely Calvin has a chronic self of writer's block. 
 
:(
 
Poor Calvin.
 
Feeling mean yet??
  
I was.
 
Hold on, the movie pretends to get worse, and we're only in the first ten. . .(maybe five?) minutes. But oh, no, Ruby Sparks has it right where it wants you...
 
Calvin has a therapist, (Elliott Gould). His name is Dr. Rosenthal. 
  
Dr. Rosenthal  gives Calvin an assignment, telling him to write a story about what will happen when he meets someone who is endeared by Scotty's quirks and sticks around to hang out. (Nice one, Dr. R).
 
Calvin goes home, falling into bed, doubtful and, I'd like to think, feeling rather patronized by Dr. R's obvious metaphorical game. . .So as Calvin sleeps,  he begins to dream... Calvin is walking in the park,when he meets a girl named Ruby.
 
(Ruby is played by the gawky and charming Zoe Kazan, (Happythankyoumoreplease). Kazan also gets major kudos for penning the screenplay for Ruby Sparks, (just wait the good stuff is coming), and also has the role of Dano's reallife girlfriend. (real, real life).
 
Ruby decides that Scotty is funny and strange (haha), and so she decides to hang around a little while. Ruby is an artist, (she draws a picture of Scotty) - Calvin watches her...
 
She has a vulnerable look in her eyes, she's skinny, fair and has a legit Urban Outfitters wardrobe that's right up Calvin's alley.
Ruby, by the way. has red hair.
 
*
 (You know the poor schmuck is in love)...
 
 When Calvin wakes up, he rushes to his typewriter - (I'm not lying. He has a typewriter.) - and begins to write about the new lady-love he met in REM...
 
He spends the next few days writing...
 
*
When Calvin emerges from his his very sudden but welcome burst of creativity he notices a change has occurred in his environment... Someone (or more specifically, some woman) has been in his apartment...  So either Calvin has a stalker, or he's starting to look pretty freaking crazy. Harry begins to catch on to his brother's "delusions." Harry and his wife come over  to cook, clean  and look in on Calvin when they find a women's underwear and other belongings in Calvin's house...
 
So of course,  Calvin's family begin to wonder if he's is making lampshades out of random ladies of the evening and other unlucky hobos...

Okay, that part's not true...(but they do worry).

Calvin doubts himself as well- he starts to scour the house for bloody clothes and forgotten receipts from  out-of-town truck stops.

(Okay, okay, I'm stopping).

 
But it is only a few more minutes into the film when the actual flesh and blood woman of Calvin's dreams shows up in his kitchen, making him eggs - in her underwear (while wearing her underwear)...
 
A major freakout commences...
 

*

 
But after a few minutes, Calvin calms down, and for the most part, forgets all about the fact that the woman has appeared out of thin air...
 
Ruby and Calvin begin a relationship...
 
They have watch tv together,
they go to the park
and have decent but fairly unremarkable sex,
 
I guess they're like any normal twenty-six year-old couple.
except for (shudder)  they eat out of the same freaking cereal bowl...
(That's just not normal).
 
During this time learn very little about Ruby's past, except for what Calvin already made up about her
(Kicked out of high school for sleeping with a teacher, dead parents) - the whole indy-girl shebang. We continue to wonder about Calvin's sanity - and start to wonder if maybe there is some way that Ruby is for real...
 
Still, the validity of this real-life woman is still significantly jeopardized.
 
But real or imagined, we can all  definitely see that Ruby is actually pretty cute... but from the start I had this yet more cynical feelings about Ruby Sparks - the movie and the character - that I just couldn't shake --
 
 And at first, I felt kind of bad about it.
 
(I'm dying to find out if anyone else also felt this way, but if I'm right about what I think ends up being the message behind the movie, then I'm sure I can't be the only one!)
 
 So.. I felt like her quirkiness came off as more obnoxious than endearing, and so while Calvin (once he got over -or forgot about - the shock of going nuts), fell in love, I found myself growing uncomfortable with the whole Ruby character.
 
I didn't really understand why yet - - she's just the kind of girl (whether alive or fictional) whom I've always found to be adorable - Waif-like but full of energy, funny and colorfully-but-not-loudly dressed and flighty, yet somehow strong-willed, Ruby is admirable without being intimidating. She's also scarred, creative, adorable and  mysterious. . .and just messed up enough to come off as real. She's the kind of girl I would like to be if I could be someone other than myself - she's cool.
 
But there was just something about her...
 
1 that despite all these things was,
dare I say it?
 
Unoriginal.
 
I
I'd seen her - AND THIS MOVIE - before!  

And suddenly it hit me.
 
Natalie Portman's character in the movie Garden State.
 
Zooey Deschanel. Ellen Paige. Rachel Bilson. . .

And this isn't a modern pattern either -
think of  it!

Lucy Arnez!
and oh God, even

Audrey Hepburn did it twice  - no, three ...four times!

(Funny Face, My Fair Lady, Sabrina, Breakfast at Tiffanys)!
 
 No, no!
Not my Audrey!

Has nothing ever been original???

 

Then came the moment that clued me in...

 
At about the thirty minute mark of Ruby Sparks, the rising action of of this film is kicked off after Calvin realizes that his brother  can see Ruby as well (and has quite an opinion about her)...
 
Harry tells Calvin he should get to the bottom of Ruby presence in his life -  that women like her aren't really "the real thing". And finally the movie starts to acknowledge in many ways, the question of Ruby's - and its own originality, and  just in time to quiet our own questions.
 
You see, it is the question wholeheartedness that's truly at the center of Ruby Sparks. To what point do we live our live wholeheartedly, love wholeheartedly, and be ourselves ...wholeheartedly.
 
 I'm not going to tell you what happens with Ruby - if she's a real person with all these quirks (though I think I've hinted that something else is going on) or if she's playing Calvin for a fool. I'm not going to tell you if anyone else can see her or if she's just  a figment of Calvin (and his brother's) imaginattion. I'm not going to tell you that, because Kazan has done an excellent job in laying out the last 2/3's of the story, and it would be a crime to steal away any of the rest from her.
 
 
But I will tell you that in the end, Ruby Sparks is indeed an anthem of originality, It's a lovesong about loving someone - and about loving yourself, with a passion that comes from a place of acceptance and reality.
 
What's real, what is at times messy, but comfortable, and for the most part, what's just pretty boring --that's what love is. Love really isn't that fragile, it's not really that exciting, or decorated , because that's not what people are. If we can be ourselves, love ourselves without being a caricuture of that self- than we can start on loving somebody else, and loving that somebody else in the same way - that's the most important thing in the wold.
 
This is point that is perhaps best brought home by our reluctant hero with the following reflection of his creation, his love, his muse,
 
Ruby Sparks:
"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."
So, want to know what ends up happening with Ruby and Calvin? Check it out from your local videostore or - on Amazon today !

 Ruby Sparks was released October 30th, 2012. It was written and produced* by lead actress, Zoe Kazan, and also stars Annette Bening, Antonio Banderas, Aasif Mandvi,Steve Coogan, Deborah Ann Woll (True Blood), and Alia Shawkat (Whip It). Ruby Sparks was directed by power couple*  Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris (Little Miss Sunshine).

The film was also produced by Dano, who makes half a lovely real-life couple with on-screen love and fellow power-house Kazan.
 
Perhaps Dano has discovered what took me a little longer to catch up on - that Ruby Sparks, real or imagined, is quite simply, irresistible.


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