Film: Ruby Sparks

Readers are going to be very confused by that woman-shaped hole in the page.
She's out of his mind.

Ruby Sparks is a 2012 Romantic Comedy film, directed by Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris and written by Zoe Kazan.

Calvin (Paul Dano) was once a Teen Genius author; 10 years later, he has serious cases of depression and Writer's Block. His only inspiration is Ruby Sparks, the Manic Pixie Dream Girl of his (literal) dreams. After writing a doorstopper Self-Insert Fic about her, he wakes up one morning to find Ruby (Kazan) in his kitchen.

Kazan wrote the screenplay for herself and her boyfriend, playing respectively a fictional character made real and the author who created her. Very meta.


  • Abuse Mistake: Calvin is rather clueless. It is a good thing that his brother looks out for him. Or would have been a good thing, if it wasn't for the brother being rather clueless himself - not realize that the advice he's giving amounts to inciting supernatural methods for Domestic Abuse.
  • Acting for Two: Kazan played both the titular character and said character's Identical Stranger that Calvin met at the end.
  • Adorkable
    • Calvin and Ruby.
    • Mabel.
  • Bilingual Bonus
  • Bourgeois Bohemian: Calvin's mother, much to his embarrassment.
  • Crazy Jealous Guy: When Ruby's burgeoning social life gets in the way of their time together, Calvin uses his power as her creator to write her into becoming obsessively dependent on him.
  • Defictionalization: Ruby is an in-universe example.
  • Destructive Romance: Ruby is perfect for Calvin. She's a real dream girl, and she would never harm him. Unfortunately, Calvin is not as perfect. He is no perfect dream boy, and the ways in which he can harm her are truly terrifying.
  • Disappeared Dad: It's implied that Calvin still has not quite gotten over the death of his father.
  • Fantastic Aesop: Despite his penchant for making Ruby overly dependent on him, on at least one occasion Calvin tries to give her character more autonomy ("Ruby was just Ruby, however she felt."). The result — Ruby just sits around all day — is an arbitrarily negative one, which taints the Aesop somewhat.
  • Fiction as Cover-Up: The Girlfriend
  • Feminine Women Can Cook: Ruby is a great cook.
  • Freudian Couch
  • Friendless Background: Calvin. His shrink even states that his only friends are his own brother and his dog.
  • Getting Smilies Painted on Your Soul: Calvin does this to Ruby, as part of his destructive tinkering with her personality.
  • Gone Horribly Right: Calvin rewrites Ruby to be "miserable without him" and sure enough she soon becomes incredibly clingy and dependant on him, to the point she misses him while he's eating breakfast beside her and has a breakdown on the street because he let go of her hand while they were walking. Once she becomes an emotional wreck he decides to counter this by writing her as being constantly euphoric. Which makes her an insufferably happy individual, who looks like she's about to burst into song any second. When he corrects this by writing that "Ruby was just Ruby, however she felt." she ends up getting absolutely lost emotionally, complete with wild mood swings and ends up constantly watching TV for days.
  • Gratuitous French:
    • For reasons attributable only to indie film quirkiness, the non-instrumental songs on the soundtrack are all in French.
    • Also, Calvin has Ruby start speaking French to prove to Harry that he created her and he later pulls the same trick to demonstrate the same thing to Ruby herself.
  • Happily Married: Calvin's mom and stepdad seem very happy together. His brother Harry and his wife also seem to have a good marriage, despite some earlier problems.
  • Heroes Want Redheads:
    • Downplayed with Ruby, whose hair has red tones, but looks either auburn or brown in different lights.
    • Calvin's mother.
  • Hippie Parents: Calvin's mom and stepdad.
  • Innocent Blue Eyes: Ruby has them.
  • It's All About Me: There's no denying Calvin is very self absorbed. His ex Lila attempts to call him out this, unintentionally describing most of his relationship problems with Ruby in the process.
  • Love at First Sight: Double Subverted. When Calvin first sees Ruby in the flesh, he's scared out of his gourd and convinced that he's hallucinating. But when he's convinced that she's not a hallucination (and apologizes to her appropriately for his Freak Out), he's head over heels in love.
  • Madness Mantra: "You're a genius! You're a genius! You're a genius!"
  • Magic Realism
  • Manic Pixie Dream Girl: All of Calvin's written/dreamt interactions with Ruby play out like this. Once she's real, their relationship becomes a Deconstruction, with Ruby being a Deconstructed Character Archetype.
  • Meet Cute: Averted. Ruby's initial manifestation is rife with awkwardness, as she acts like a very confused and concerned girlfriend/roommate, and Calvin acts like it's the beginning of his nervous breakdown.
  • Mind Rape: The climactic scene, and it is extremely uncomfortable to watch.
  • Mood Dissonance: The climatic scene, Ruby is barking like a dog, doing sexy dancing, and spinning around while crying her eyes out, and Calvin is in a full A God Am I mode, but is also crying, and the whole thing plays off as a rape scene.
  • Most Writers Are Writers: Calvin is a young novelist struggling with writer's block.
  • Muse Abuse: The relationship started well, turned abusive. Although Calvin did managed to finish the book based on Ruby after he repents.
  • The One That Got Away: Ruby. Later subverted, if that girl was actually her.
  • Only Sane Man: Patrick.
  • The Pollyanna: Ruby.
  • Proper Tights with a Skirt: Often shows up in Ruby's outfit.
  • Reality-Writing Book
  • Real-Life Relative: Real-life sweethearts Paul Dano and Zoe Kazan plays the film's Official Couple. Well, sort-of.
  • Replacement Love Interest: The girl Calvin meets at the end of the movie, played by Kazan but now with shorter hair.
  • Rewriting Reality
  • Running Gag
    • Calvin's boy dog pees like a girl.
    • When people refer to Calvin as a "genius", he corrects them. Played for Drama in the film's climax.
  • Pygmalion Plot: Literally. Thinking about Pygmalion is what inspired Zoe Kazan's story.
  • Secondary Character Title: The titular Ruby Sparks is the literal manifestation of the girl of The Hero's dreams.
  • Sensitive Guy and Manly Man: Depressed and cultured writer Calvin and his gym-addict brother Harry.
  • Shout-Out: Several to Billy Wilder movies and possibly one to Arrested Development. Alia Shawkat plays a girl named Mabel. In Arrested Development, her character was called Maeby.
  • Two-Person Pool Party: Astoundingly, the host has the gall to try to start one of these while an actual party that he's hosting is in progress. With the girlfriend of one of his guests, no less.
  • Unreliable Narrator: Calvin, certainly in regards to Lila.
  • Unsympathetic Comedy Protagonist: Calvin spends the majority of the film being self-absorbed and expecting the relationship to revolve around him. Once Ruby starts expressing the desire for space and her own friends Calvin attempts to start re-writing her into someone more dependant on him.. And it's not just Ruby, either: he spends the entire time visiting his mother's house sulking and writing and obviously dislikes his mom's boyfriend.
  • Wham Line: For Ruby, anyway. "You're not real. I made you up."
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Lila calls Calvin out on how he actually treated her in their relationship, as opposed to how Calvin views it.
  • Writer's Block: Calvin suffers from it.