“Ruby Sparks” (2012). Cast: Paul Dano, Zoe Kazan, Chris Messina, Elliott Gould, Annette Bening, Antonio Banderas, Steve Coogan, Aasif Mandvi, Toni Trucks, Deborah Ann Woll, Alia Shawkat. Directors: Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris. Screenplay: Zoe Kazan. www.foxsearchlight.com/rubysparks/
Wouldn’t it be great to conjure up the ideal mate simply by writing one’s beloved into being? Sounds easy enough, right? But, as with any consciously created manifestation, one must know what one’s doing to get the desired results, a notion explored in the offbeat new romantic comedy, “Ruby Sparks.”
Novelist Calvin Weir-Fields (Paul Dano) suffers from severe writer’s block. Having become a best-selling author at a tender age, the literary wunderkind has come under severe pressure to produce from his agent (Aasif Mandvi), from his readers and, perhaps most of all, from himself. It’s become so serious, in fact, that he’s sought the guidance of a psychiatrist, Dr. Rosenthal (Elliott Gould). But nothing seems to help, and the condition grows ever more frustrating with each passing day that he stares at the blank paper in his typewriter.
Inspiration finally arrives by way of an unlikely source – his dreams. Calvin begins having recurring nighttime encounters with a mystery woman who captivates his imagination, one whom he feels compelled to write about. Before long, Calvin builds a narrative around his dream girl, whom he’s named Ruby Sparks.
His passion for writing is thus reignited and subsequently soars. However, he also begins experiencing a variety of unusual, unexplained waking life anomalies, such as finding women’s lingerie in his bedroom closet. But the biggest shock of all comes one day when he finds a stranger in his house – a personified version of his allegedly fictitious creation (Zoe Kazan).
Needless to say, Calvin is shocked to see his “character” come to life, even though Ruby seems perfectly comfortable being herself, oblivious to the notion that she’s a manifestation of his imagination made flesh. Ruby exhibits all of the traits– including the personal history – that her creator has given her, and she seems intimately acquainted with the man who wrote her into being. It’s all a bit much for Calvin, though, who seriously starts to question his sanity – that is, until he becomes aware that others can see Ruby, too. He’s at last convinced that she’s indeed real.
But now what? Since he created her, where does he go from here? And, perhaps most importantly, should he tell her who she really is?
Calvin soon realizes that, whenever he writes anything new about Ruby’s character, her physical doppelganger begins exhibiting the same behavior. It thus dawns on him that he can make her do anything he wants, a quality that initially seems tantalizing but that quickly proves to be a challenge to manage, raising a whole host of questions he’s ill-prepared to handle. (Comparatively speaking, writer’s block suddenly doesn’t seem like such a big deal after all.)
Despite the film’s seemingly lightweight story line, “Ruby Sparks” is anything but frothy fluff; rather, it’s a thoughtful meditation on conscious creation practice. Through Calvin’s exploits, we see that conscious creation is an all-inclusive process that carries with it tremendously potent power. In line with that, it also comes with incredible responsibility, for we are the driving forces in it and what we ultimately draw to ourselves. And, because of that, we need to be careful how we proceed with it, for we may easily end up with what appear to be “unintended” results, outcomes that arise from acts of either un-conscious or semi-conscious creation.
To make the process work, it’s incumbent upon us to understand and acknowledge that the power of creation originates from within us, from the beliefs and intents we hold in materializing the reality we experience. In that regard, then, it’s crucial that we know what we want to create, something that Calvin struggles with in almost every aspect of his life. His writer’s block, for instance, stems from not knowing what to write about. Similarly, his personal life is so socially Spartan, virtually devoid of friends and fun, that he spends nearly all of his free time with his brother (Chris Messina) and his dog, Scottie. He has trouble not only managing his creations but even conceptualizing them in the first place, seemingly letting them unfold on their own.
So, in light of the foregoing, is it any wonder that Calvin has difficulty with his romantic life and the manifested object of his desire? Perhaps that’s because, like most other facets of his life, it’s an area in which he has little experience, as an encounter with his one and only ex-girlfriend (Deborah Ann Woll) reveals. Through that “happenstance” meeting, we learn that he didn’t have a good handle on what he was doing or what he wanted out of their relationship, a pattern that, sadly, has carried over into his romance with Ruby, despite the supposedly desired attributes he imbues her with. He consults others, such as his counselor, his brother, his mother (Annette Bening) and his mother’s boyfriend (Antonio Banderas), about how to proceed, but their suggestions don’t inspire him, so the ball just gets thrown back in his own lap. But, then, that shouldn’t really come as any surprise, since creating his reality is hisbusiness, and that’s where the responsibility for making it work inherently lies.
Calvin’s struggles in this regard shed significant light on the concept of free will, one of our most important birthrights. For his part, Calvin has been squandering his personal stockpile of this metaphysical capital, choosing, for whatever reason, to allow most of his life to unfurl without much personal input. And, because of his lack of experience in this part of his life, he’s unprepared for how to wield this power when he finally becomes aware of it (through his materialization of Ruby). He’s like a kid with a new toy, trying it out to see what it can do and not always playing nicely with it as becomes readily apparent in one rather unsettling scene in which he uses the process to manipulate Ruby as if she were a puppet come to life. Learning how to employ free will effectively, justly and responsibly is a difficult lesson for Calvin (especially when it comes to using it to create rather than control), but it’s one he must master if he ever hopes to have happiness and contentment in his romantic dealings, his literary calling and his life in general.
This is not to suggest that “Ruby Sparks” is oppressively heavy or unduly serious; far from it. There are lots of great laughs in this film, reminiscent of those found in the delightful 2006 comedy “Stranger Than Fiction,” and they effectively reinforce its more substantive underlying themes. And, despite a somewhat slow opening half-hour, the picture quickly takes off and pulls in viewers, leading them through a thoughtful and entertaining narrative. Dano and Kazan are terrific in the lead roles, effectively fleshing out their characters and sharing a great chemistry as the mismatched lovers.
The conscious creation process can have its pitfalls when practiced with imprecision, indifference or reckless abandon. But by employing it genuinely, with clear intent, the results can be miraculous. Calvin comes to realize this for himself when he observes that falling in love is like an act of magic, but it’s one that results from deliberate materialization and not from random chance. Such is the true beauty that arises from the power of creation.
Copyright © 2012, by Brent Marchant. All rights reserved.