Saturday, February 23, 2013

Movie Review: Ruby Sparks

Ruby Sparksis the story of a wunderkind writer, Calvin, who wrote a masterpiece as a teenager. Now in his  thirties, he's trying to come up with a second novel. He's suffering from writer's block. It's terrible. He's seeing a shrink and his only real friend is his brother. He's gotten a puppy called Scotty, who appears to be as neurotic as he is (he pees like a girl dog), in the vague hope that a dog will help him meet people when he's hiking.

One night he dreams about a beautiful red headed girl, back-lit by the sun, and begins to write about her. His writer's block seems cured- he's writing obsessively about Ruby, as though through the typewriter he's actually spending time with her. He realizes that he's falling in love with this character- and that she isn't real. But he is too lonely, too full of anxiety to stop writing.

That's when Ruby turns up in his kitchen, exactly as he'd envisioned her in the dream, munching on cereal. He's terrified at first, convinced that he's losing his mind. When he takes her out on the street and strangers can see her too, he stops resisting. Why shouldn't he fall in love with her? After all, she's the perfect woman, his dream girl! She was made for him- by him.

Now, in a typical romantic comedy, things would play out from here along the silliest and most trivial lines. But here, they go for the jugular to get at the heart of what makes relationships so difficult.

All relationships are like a mirror. The people we love show us things about ourselves. A new lover, especially reflects a version of yourself that you want to believe in and adore. But as time goes on, the beautiful light fades. We are forced to see ourselves as we really are in the mundane, day-to-day moments of our lives. When faced with our own imperfections, we don't want to gaze as closely at ourselves, and so we begin to look for imperfections in the other person instead.

That moment of dissatisfaction is where the premise of Ruby Sparks gets really interesting. What if you can change the person you're in love with? What if you can control what they say and do? This is the perfect scenario, right? They will love you unconditionally, and you will never have to change.

Calvin tries to resist at first, but it starts to look as if Ruby might not stay with him left to her own free will, and he changes the rule book. He begins to tinker with her, adding lines to his novel so that she will adore him more, never want to leave him, and be miserable without him. She becomes despondent when he goes out to get the mail. In following scenes, she clings to him like a drowning man to a piece of driftwood. Unable to take life as a conjoined twin, he writes instead that she is filled with joy. Suddenly Ruby is deliriously  vacantly, creepily happy about absolutely everything.

Calvin discovers that controlling Ruby's thoughts and feelings destroys his reasons for loving her. Free will is essential to the idea of true love. It's part of the mystery of it- that someone could have the planet full of people to chose from, and from those billions, they plucked you, and you them. What a beautiful mystery!

I won't spoil the resolution for you, I will simply say that this film was a wonderfully thorough investigation of why and how love works and how freedom and risk are the only ways to the ecstasy of true love.

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