Thursday, September 6, 2012

Happy At The Movies

Editors, it is rumored, don't much like stories about writers.  Writers do (mild narcissism, undoubtedly).  Probably the same applies to movies.  Still, I didn't expect much from the beginning of RUBY SPARKS, and I left loving it.

The premise is as old as Galatea (in another medium): a writer creates the perfect woman on paper, and she becomes real.  Worse, his "perfect woman" is one of those kookie, free-spirit types that I usually find annoying.  After Calvin, the writer, overcomes his shock and disbelief, there is an idealized series of loving-couple scenes, youthful division, that in their own way are also cliches: a video arcade, a beach walk, etc.  I wasn't exactly bored because Paul Dano as the nerdy, relationship-challenged Calvin has one of the most mobile and expressive faces ever, but I wasn't enchanted, either.

Then, in the second part of the film, things changed.  They begin to find fault with each other, at first the usual tiny rifts that successful couples negotiate.  But Calvin does not know how to negotiate.  All he knows how to do is write.  So he hauls out the manuscript in which he created Ruby and tries to rewrite her.  Again.  And again.  And he can't make her perfect.  All this becomes a writing technique in itself, "literalizing the metaphor," in which Ruby stands for not only love but also for writing fiction.  She is being twisted and forced in an attempt to make her a perfect echo of the writer.  Calvin cannot go past who he is, and fiction demands that writers become other characters in order to solidly create them.

By the end of the movie, his pain and horror are frozen on that mobile face, and I had chills of recognition.  For both meanings of the metaphor.

Zoe Kazan is good as Ruby, but this movie belongs to Paul Dano.  Every writer should see it.


bd__sd said...

What do you make of it that is Zoe's script?

Nancy Kress said...

That she is doubly talented.

qiihoskeh said...

Do editors like stories about editors? I can think of a couple, actually.