Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Movie Review: Ruby Sparks

What makes "Ruby Sparks" a truly marvelous film is the two things it doesn't do. It doesn't go for cheap laughs and it doesn't ever fill the screen with eye catching special effects.This is a movie that requires the viewer to bring an active imagination into the theatre. Leave that at home and you'll be totally lost.

"Ruby Sparks" is a perfect example of plain and simple storytelling done right. The plot, the dialogue, the acting and the directing are what's important here. They get the timing right. They get the lighting and sound right. They get the camera angles right. Then they just allow everything else to follow the KISS principle (Keep It Simple Stupid).

At the age of only twenty-nine, Calvin has just succeeded in doing his second impossible thing.

The first impossible thing occurred a little more than a decade ago. That was when a scrawny teen age high school dropout wrote an incredibly inspired gut wrenching novel and managed to get it picked up by one of the major publishing companies. The critics raved, sales went through the roof and everyone agreed that Calvin Weir-Fields was essentially set for life. He would never have to worry about money, the boy could just enjoy his success and do what he wanted to when he wanted to.

The second impossible thing wound up happening just the other day. Calvin somehow created a girlfriend out of thin air.

Very much like his first major success, Calvin hadn't actually expected this little miracle to happen. Trying to find his way past a very frustrating bout of writer's block, the young man had taken a bit of advice from his psychologist. He'd sat down at his desk and simply started typing about whatever popped into his brain. He began by describing the sort of girl he could see himself falling in love with. He decided to name her Ruby Sparks.

A few weeks later, the Doctor's bit of advice appeared to be working. A story was finally evolving and Calvin was on the verge of having something new he could show to his very anxious publisher. One morning, as Calvin was running late for an appointment with his editor, he suddenly cursed at himself because of a mistake he'd made. He'd forgotten to walk the dog earlier in the day and stopping to do so now would cause him to be even later for his very important meeting.

Then the completely unexpected happened. Being a very loving and attentive girlfriend, Ruby simply stepped out of the kitchen and offered to walk the dog for Calvin. And the young woman couldn't understand why the love of her life was suddenly panicking and backing away from her instead of hugging her and thanking her for the favor.

A movie like "The Time Traveler's Wife" would Special Effect a story like this to death. We'd see this mysterious vortex appear on the kitchen wall and Ruby would step out, Then the thing would suddenly close and this aura around Ruby would gradually fade away. And all of this would only be the first of many little tricks that would gunk up the film and make it a lot harder to understand or enjoy.

On the flip side of the coin ... A movie like "The Hangover" would take this basic setup and milk it for every cheap laugh it could find. Some clueless nerd now has both the girl of his dreams and a magic typewriter that can control her every thought and move. He'll make the mistake of telling this to his best friend, a selfish clod who'll decide this is the perfect opportunity for the two of them to have the party of their lives. Put the puppet doll girlfriend in a black leather mini-dress, neon red fishnets and stripper heels and haul her off to Vegas for a wild weekend.

"Ruby Sparks" becomes a wonderful movie by ignoring all these gimmicks and deftly playing on what science fiction and fantasy do best. It uses an unreal situation to take a long hard look at a very real truth about being human. The fact of the matter is that creating the girl of his dreams and bringing her into the real world was actually the easy part of the miracle. If Calvin wants to hold onto to this flesh and blood Ruby Sparks, he'll need to do the impossible one more time.

He'll need to wake up and realize that he's the one still living in a make believe world.

Travis Clemmons

1 comment:

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