Ruby Sparks

MPAA Rating: R

Entertainment: +2

Content: -3

Paul Dano, Zoe Kazan, Steve Coogan, Annette Bening, Antonio Banderas. Written by Zoe Kazan. Directed by Jonathan Dayton & Valerie Faris.

FILM SYNOPSIS: Calvin is a young, nerdy novelist who achieved phenomenal success early in his career but is now struggling with his writing - as well as his romantic life. Finally, he makes a breakthrough when he creates a character named Ruby who becomes his muse. However, he begins to question his sanity when one day he enters his apartment only to discover Ruby, in the flesh, sitting on his couch. He has achieved what no other writer ever has – he has brought his character to life!

PREVIEW REVIEW: We critics get so excited when the synopsis of a new movie promises something original. And certainly, Ruby Sparks does that. It’s a kind of metaphor, a parable, a morality tale. Well, I wouldn’t go that far. Let’s just stick with metaphor and parable.

When God created people, he gave them a free will. Calvin discovers that when a person has to adore you without freedom of choice, well, eventually it’s not so much fun. I suspect in God’s case, He wants that love returned and He knows love is only cherished when given freely. Eventually, Calvin learns this. Not that God is ever found in Calvin’s thought process. Though he seeks more than what fame can satisfy, Calvin doesn’t seem to process the concept of spiritual direction. But, as I say, the tale is a metaphor and by film’s end, Calvin is willing to sacrifice this dream in order that the one he created can go her way, seeking a fulfilling life.

Alas, I see no reason why this parable couldn’t have been told within a different rating category. Although the film is clever, with some bitingly good wit, it also relies on the f-bomb to relay frustration and anger, dooming it to a MPAA R-rating. Now, before you say, “Phil, that’s the way people talk,” do you really think the three leads in a romantic comedy need use that obscenity a total of 22 times? Everything else is creative about the film, so why do the filmmakers feel an obligation to relate to the populace with the same abuse of language found in nearly every film now in theaters?

I was willing to overlook the handheld shaky camera, although that’s been done to death, and the objectionable language, as it seems no one in Hollywood can form a simple declarative sentence without its inclusion, but then there’s the film’s sappy ending.

Spoiler alert: The lead learns that to love another person you must be willing to sacrifice. In his case, he has to let her go. The two leads in Splendor in the Grass discover the same conclusion. They’ve learned from one another, but their lives have taken different paths. They will apply what they’ve learned in their previous relationship, but the poignancy lies in the fact that life has come between them and they have had to accept their fate.

Now, understand, I usually prefer the happy ending. But with Ruby Sparks, someone in charge decided a happy ending was more important than the film’s substantive lesson. Disappointingly, the ending seems unworthy of the production’s piercing message, which is both insightful and resonate. In real life, there is usually a cost for doing the right thing. In the movies, a lesson learned is usually accompanied by a reward. Here, he finds her again; this time she is unaware of who he is until she sees his photo on his new book’s jacket. (She just happens to be reading his novel.) Wouldn’t it have been more significant if, at the end, he saw her from a distance, arm in arm with a new love, while the camera begins to pull back as he enters a bookstore, his book predominately promoted in the store window? Wouldn’t that melancholic ending have been more poignant than the typical Hollywood happy ending? (I’m going to lose you on that one, aren’t I?)

DVD Alternatives:Splendor in the Grass.

Preview Reviewer: Phil Boatwright
Fox Searchlight Pictures

The following categories contain objective listings of film content which contribute to the subjective numeric Content ratings posted to the left and on the Home page.

Crude Language: None

Obscene Language: A couple of crude sexual terms.

Profanity: I caught no misuse of God’s name; I don’t know how God managed to not be ir-reverenced by a writer who otherwise peppers his script with around 30 combined uses of the f- and s-words.

Violence: None

Sex: An implied sexual encounter

Nudity: None

Sexual Dialogue/Gesture: None

Drugs: Drinking and pot use.

Other: None

Running Time: 104 minutes
Intended Audience: Mature viewers

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