Ruby Sparks

Aug 7, 2012

A cautionary tale about getting what you want.

Ruby Sparks

Grade: B

Directors: Jonathan Dayton (Little Miss Sunshine), Valerie Faris (Little Miss Sunshine)

Screenplay: Zoe Kazan

Cast: Paul Dano (Cowboys and Aliens), Zoe Kazan (Meek’s Cutoff), Annette Bening (American Beauty)

Rating: R

by John DeSando


Writing is difficult enough, but create a character that tactually comes alive, and that’s the stuff of The Twilight Zone. Actually, the plot of Ruby Sparks has been played before, in TZ’s A World of His Own and the feature film Stranger than Fiction (2006). The enjoyment of these three fantasies relies on suspension of disbelief, just the attitude the authors needed to bring their characters into their lives.


While Ruby Sparks is at times plodding, at others it has the allure of a story fantastic enough to be almost believable, close as it comes to the real psychological truth.


Calvin (Paul Dano) has writer’s block when he is miraculously moved into prolific mode by creating a character, Ruby Sparks (Zoe Kazan), who becomes his lover and his muse. He even proves her existence to his skeptical brother, Harry (Chris Messina), and proceeds to introduce her to his family and friends. Most notably, Mom (Annette Bening as Gertrude), whose own life with rough artist Mort (Antonio Banderas) may presage how wacky life outside the norm can be.


Although Ruby is a fictional character come alive, she manages to torment Calvin with the same old irritations, like jealousy, that plague most real romances. What sets this story apart is the overt sexism of male dominance and manipulation so decried by feminists who see enslavement in males’ wish to control females. By a few strokes of his old typewriter, Calvin can make Ruby do anything, until she becomes unattractively robotic, and he has had his fill of dictatorship. Having the feminine ideal at your fingertips, so to speak, seems not to be the ideal. It might just be preferable to let nature dictate the terms.


The ending is formulaic and just as unbelievable as the story, which, given her last name reminds me of author Nicholas of the same last name, whose stories are rife with sentimentality. Oh, well, neither writing nor living is easy, and in most cases, there is a price to pay for stepping into The Twilight Zone.



John DeSando co-hosts WCBE 90.5’s It’s Movie Time and Cinema Classics, which can be heard streaming and on-demand at

He also appears on Fox 28’s Mind of a Man

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