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Film / Ruby Sparks

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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 (of Little Miss Sunshine fame) 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.

This film provides examples of:

  • 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.
  • Bilingual Bonus: Ruby's French lines in the kitchen.
  • Bourgeois Bohemian: Calvin's mother, much to his embarrassment.
  • Break-Up/Make-Up Scenario: Double subverted. Calvin abuses Ruby and finally makes her free. He misses her and cannot make it up with her as expected, because she ran away. But eventually, he meets a Doppelgänger Replacement Love Interest who might be Ruby herself, "released from her past".
  • Conveniently an Orphan: Calvin wrote Ruby as a completely isolated and orphaned character. Apparently, her parents died when she was young.
  • Conversation Cut: When Calvin finds Ruby with the party host in the pool, he pulls her away and they drive home. Cut to his apartment door where he finally asks her what was going on.
  • 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.
  • Doppelgänger Replacement Love Interest: The girl Calvin meets at the end of the movie, played by Kazan but now with shorter hair. According to All There in the Script, this is actually Ruby herself, "released from her past".
  • 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.
  • Gilligan Cut:
    • On their first morning Calvin tries to leave the apartment unnoticed but Ruby spots him and asks if she could tag along. He refuses. Cut to them driving off together in his car.
    • Calvin doesn't want the chair offered by his stepdad. Cut the next scene with them driving off with the chair in the backseat.
  • Gone Horribly Right: Calvin rewrites Ruby to be "miserable without him" and sure enough she soon becomes incredibly clingy and dependent 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.
  • Good-Times Montage: Scenes of Calvin and Ruby enjoying themselves at an arcade and a disco club.
  • 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.
  • Hard-Work Montage: Calvin, in a fit of inspiration, is shown working hours on end on his typewriter, carving out his Magical Girlfriend character on paper.
  • Hippie Parents: Calvin's mom and stepdad.
  • Innocent Blue Eyes: Ruby has them.
  • Involuntary Dance: Ruby doing her creepy teasing, during the climax.
  • It's All About Me: There's no denying Calvin is very self-absorbed. His ex Lila attempts to call him out on 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!"
  • Magical Girlfriend: An ideal, though fictional, Love Interest coming to live for Calvin.
  • Magic Realism: About a writer who dashes off twenty pages about his perfect woman in a fit of inspiration. When said perfect woman appears in the flesh in his apartment, at first he freaks out, but soon he accepts it as a bona fide miracle.
  • 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: Happens to Calvin with both Ruby and her Doppelgänger Replacement Love Interest at the end. Apparently, the shrink's advice to use Scotty as a way of making contact worked out after all.
  • Mickey Mousing: The first morning Calvin encounters Ruby in his apartment, the music punctuates his "stealthy" walk down the stairs.
  • Mind Rape: The climactic scene, and it is extremely uncomfortable to watch.
  • Mood Dissonance: The climactic 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 manage to finish the book based on Ruby after he repents.
  • No Antagonist: Calvin is up against himself.
  • The One That Got Away: Ruby. Later subverted, if that girl was actually her.
  • Only Sane Man: Patrick.
  • Orbital Kiss: Interesting variant with the camera steady while Calvin and Ruby are kissing on his rotating swivel chair.
  • The Pollyanna: Ruby.
  • Pop-Cultural Osmosis Failure: Ruby has never heard of the writer F. Scott Fitzgerald. Probably justified, since Calvin seems to have deliberately written her that way for her to stand out and be a true Manic Pixie Dream Girl as unlike his writer self as possible.
  • Power Perversion Potential: When Calvin and his brother Harry find out that anything he writes about Ruby comes true, Harry immediately suggests Calvin write that Ruby has bigger boobs, likes blowjobs, etc. Calvin is disgusted and refuses. Calvin eventually resorts to rewriting Ruby to obey him and be sexier in an attempt to stop her from leaving him, which is incredibly disturbing and plays off like a rape scene, as she's moving against her will and clearly terrified. Calvin realizes how low he's sunk and permanently frees Ruby from his control.
  • Proper Tights with a Skirt: Often shows up in Ruby's outfit.
  • Pygmalion Plot: Literally. Thinking about Pygmalion is what inspired Zoe Kazan's story. Ruby is Galatea: she's Calvin's ideal woman and muse, and after he writes her into existence he can control every aspect of her through his writing — at least until she rebels.
  • Reality-Writing Book
  • Rewriting Reality: Calvin writes about a beautiful woman who comes to life. He finds that anything he writes about her affects her.
  • Rom Com Job: He is a writer, she is a painter.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Sexy Shirt Switch: The first morning Calvin sees Ruby in his kitchen, she wears a shirt of his.
  • Shout-Out:
    • Calvin: "I started seeing her this morning. It's like that movie Harvey.
    • 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.
  • The Shrink: Of the helpful type.
  • Tomato in the Mirror: In-Universe. Calvin keeps it a secret that Ruby was a fictional character who came to life. When she finds out, it is not pretty.
  • 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 dependent 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.
  • Write What You Know: Discussed by Harry in-universe as the proper way of writing.
  • You Need to Get Laid: Harry's opinion about his lacking love life at the start of the movie.