The Velvet Café

A room for thoughts about movies

When authors and their characters collide

with 25 comments

ruby sparksI’m a bit of a sceptic whenever I hear about writers who claim that they’re out of control of their characters. Every writer I’ve known has struggled hard to get their writing going at all. Their characters won’t lift a finger or open their mouth with less than that you force them, so I usually write it off as “humble bragging”.

However if the writer we’re speaking about is a character in a movie, it’s an entirely different thing. I love to see creatures of our imagination materialize in our world and then go straight to an interesting confrontation with the person who created them. Those stories tend to be smart, fun and mind-bending.

Altered perspective
The last movie author-meets-character movie I watched was Stranger than Fiction from 2006. That movie is told from the point of view of the book character, Harold, who after finding out that his author is plotting to kill him, puts up a fight to be kept alive.

In the more recent romantic comedy Ruby Sparks the perspective is altered. The centre of the movie is the one-hit wonder author Calvin Weir Fields who, in an attempt to get out of his writer’s blockage, starts writing about his imaginary dream girl. To his astonishment, this dream girl comes alive and he falls head over heels in love with her.

It doesn’t take long for him to realize that he holds a certain power over her being the author. This temptation turns out to be irresistible and before he knows it he’s rewriting Ruby to become even better. And then he rewrites again. And again. Getting it right isn’t as easy as you may think, especially not if you’re a character in a “be careful of what you wish for” story like this.

A fun movie
Ruby Sparks is by no means a profound movie, but I thought it was pretty damned fun, and considering how picky I am with “fun”, that is high praise. But there’s more to it than just the light hearted comedy; it puts its finger on easy it is to get into a mode where we try to reconfigure our loved ones and how unwise such attempts can be.

For reasons I don’t understand Ruby Spark didn’t get any theatrical release in Sweden apart from the festival scene. Now it’s out on DVD and I’d definitely recommend it, especially if you’re anything like me in terms of love for author-meets-character movies.

Oh and by the way Zoe Kazan  is awesome. She didn’t just write this movie; she also acted it and she produced it. For how much I love Lena Dunham, it’s great to see that there are more capable young female film workers who are about to establish themselves in the film industry.

Ruby Sparks (Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris, US 2012) My rating: 4/5

Written by Jessica

March 26, 2013 at 12:57 am

Posted in Ruby Sparks

25 Responses

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  1. I’ve been meaning to watch this and now I think I’ll get the DVD soon. Good review.

    Garrett

    March 26, 2013 at 4:47 am

    • Thanks! I think it’s a very likable movie so I’d be surprised if it disappoints you.

      Jessica

      March 26, 2013 at 2:43 pm

  2. Nice review. Funny you just watched it. Same here! I watched it Saturday and should have the review up Wednesday.

    keith7198

    March 26, 2013 at 4:49 am

    • Thank you! I’ll keep my eyes open for your take on it!

      Jessica

      March 26, 2013 at 2:44 pm

  3. Rucy Sparks didn’t quite make my Top 10 of 2012, but it was very close. The movie surprised me by going to some dark places, and that’s what lifted it up above the normal, quirky, independent romcom I was expecting it to be. And I agree with you on Kazan.

    Chip Lary

    March 26, 2013 at 4:52 am

    • Yes, I think it was balanced and it took a direction that I didn’t quite expect it to. A little gem. Had it opened in Sweden in 2012, it probably wouldn’t have reached my top 10, but certainly my top 25.

      Jessica

      March 26, 2013 at 2:47 pm

  4. Kazan had one of my favourite performances of the year, if not THE favourite. There was this delightful interplay between her writing and acting, where either becomes surprisingly less predictable than I expected. And that final confrontation between the two leads was intense, where Kazan just goes for the hardest and most extreme emotions.

    paolocase

    March 26, 2013 at 7:32 am

    • Yep. I liked her performance a lot – and when it turned out that she was involved in the production in other ways I was even more impressed.

      Jessica

      March 26, 2013 at 2:49 pm

  5. Nice post. I loved this one! It was one of my favorites from last year. Zoe Kazan is an amazing talent! Also loved seeing Paul Dano and Chris Messina.

    fernandorafael

    March 26, 2013 at 7:47 am

    • Thanks! Yes, indeed, there’s a lot of talent in this movie! I also enjoyed seeing faces that I’m less familiar with.

      Jessica

      March 26, 2013 at 2:50 pm

      • I think Chris Messina is very underrated and should be getting more roles. Loved seeing Antonio Banderas and Annette Bening in their little roles as well. They were pretty funny.

        fernandorafael

        March 26, 2013 at 7:06 pm

  6. I loved this film. I adore a smart romcom and films about magic realism. It’s the kind of film I wish I had written. Paul Dano and Zoe Kazan were adorable and perfect together.

    Nikhat

    March 26, 2013 at 9:35 am

    • I often see the romcom genre dismissed too quickly. All romcoms aren’t the same. there are those that stick out with their originality and wit and this is one of them.

      Jessica

      March 26, 2013 at 2:54 pm

  7. I really enjoyed Ruby Sparks and I loved how dark it got – that was a real unexpected turn for me. The ending didn’t work for me, but that was pretty much my only gripe with it.

    • Finding the perfect ending is a tricky thing. I’ve heard writers claiming they rewrote the end like 30 times before getting it “right”. I could see this movie ending in other ways. I thought it was ok, but yeah, there might have been better ways.

      Jessica

      March 26, 2013 at 2:56 pm

  8. We’re not far off on this one again Jessica. Great little film that wasn’t afraid to mix things up and go darker when if had to. I really enjoyed thi one. 4.5/5 for me.

    Mark Walker

    March 26, 2013 at 1:40 pm

    • I’m not surprised anymore seeing us agreeing about a movie. I ended up at a 4/5 but I might have bumped it even a bit higher had I gotten the chance to see it in a theatre rather than at home on a small screen.

      Jessica

      March 26, 2013 at 2:59 pm

  9. “I’m a bit of a sceptic whenever I hear about writers who claim that they’re out of control of their characters. Every writer I’ve known has struggled hard to get their writing going at all. Their characters won’t lift a finger or open their mouth with less than that you force them, so I usually write it off as ‘humble bragging’.”

    Not so. Characters can be like thoughts and take on a life of their own. It’s like once a composer has a melody in his head, it can grow of its own accord.

    andrea ostrov letania

    March 26, 2013 at 3:15 pm

    • Maybe I have just to experience it yet. It sounds wonderful if it happened.

      Jessica

      March 26, 2013 at 3:30 pm

  10. Jessica, it’s cool to see more attention for Ruby Sparks. I thought it was fun and interesting in the way it showed the darker sides of a writer’s personality. The scene where he puts her through out the different actions is just nasty and surprising for a pretty light film. I enjoyed this one a lot, and I totally agree about Zoe Kazan.

    Dan Heaton

    March 26, 2013 at 3:27 pm

    • It’s very nasty and frankly made me quite lose my sympathies for him. But if you want to make a movie about someone gaining an insight you’ve got to start making him a bit clueless.

      Jessica

      March 26, 2013 at 3:31 pm

  11. It didn’t get any release in my country either – which absolutely sucks because if I wasn’t following film blogs, I wouldn’t even have heard of it. And yet it’s probably my favourite film seen this year – and damn, I agree, Kazana was indeed awesome here, it’s indeed lovely to see new strong film people.

    elena

    March 26, 2013 at 6:30 pm

    • I know, it’s annoying when you hear about a movie in a lot of podcasts you listen to and you read about it and there’s nothing you can do to watch it since you’re trying to be a decent person who don’t do piracy. 😦 I’m glad it at least got a DVD release. Not all good movies get that much.

      Jessica

      March 26, 2013 at 8:56 pm

      • Well, at least iTunes has most films available for rent. But yep, it sucks when you’re living in Narnia (which seems to be anywhere but in the US and UK…). sigh.

        elena

        March 26, 2013 at 10:40 pm

  12. […] Ruby Sparks From my review: “Ruby Sparks is by no means a profound movie, but I thought it was pretty damned fun, and considering how picky I am with “fun”, that is high praise. But there’s more to it than just the light hearted comedy; it puts its finger on easy it is to get into a mode where we try to reconfigure our loved ones and how unwise such attempts can be.” […]


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