Thursday, December 20, 2012

Ruby Sparks

We watched the movie Ruby Sparks last night and today.  That sounds a bit odd, like we watched it twice, but no.  It came in from Netflix and we slapped it into the player last night.  I watched it for a while, but it looked like a romantic comedy, so I bailed out and left Janis to watch it.  I was in our office and could hear a bit of it, and as it developed, it was clearly not a romantic comedy.  So I cheated: I googled it.  And what I found made me want to go back and see it from the beginning.

So that's what I did this afternoon.  And it was really good.

Ruby Sparks is a modern update of the ancient Greek tale of Pygmalion.  This is the tale of the artist who created a sculpture so beautiful that he fell in love with it.  The gods interceded and brought her to life.  In this film, the artist is Calvin (played by Paul Dano), who is a writer.  He creates his ideal girlfriend, Ruby Sparks (played by Zoe Kazan).  I'm not going to say more as I don't want to give the plot away, but you can go to Wikipedia or a number of other sites and get a detailed blow-by-blow description.

What I will talk about, though, are the themes.  The main one is the difference between the ideal of love and its actuality.  Ruby, being a creation of Calvin's imagination, is his ideal of what a girlfriend would be like.  This does not, however, result an ideal relationship.  Another theme is that of control.  Since Ruby is Calvin's creation, he can control what she feels, thinks, and does.  This gets into some chilling situations as he deliberately changes her behavior in order to prove his control.

I related to this second theme in an unexpected way.  It reminded me very much of the process in creating a painting.  I often start out a painting with an idea of what it should eventually be.  This is the ideal that I'm striving for.  However, as the painting develops, it takes on a life of its own.  I can direct it to some extent, but it gradually starts to exert its own demands.  The best results come when I work with the painting and let it tell me what it needs.  Jackson Pollack described this best:
When I am in my painting, I'm not aware of what I'm doing. It is only after a sort of 'get acquainted' period that I see what I have been about. I have no fear of making changes, destroying the image, etc., because the painting has a life of its own. I try to let it come through. It is only when I lose contact with the painting that the result is a mess. Otherwise there is pure harmony, an easy give and take, and the painting comes out well.

That's when it is working best.  When I try to direct it, to exert my will on the painting, it turns into a fight.  If the fight goes on too long, then I lose the painting.  And this same theme was explored in Ruby Sparks.

A surprise to me was Zoe Kazan.  She not only played the female lead, she also developed and wrote the script and served as executive producer.  She's the grand-daughter of Elia Kazan and a graduate of Yale University.  In other words, this young lady has the chops: an intelligent, capable, beautiful young woman who's an excellent actress, writes great scripts, and can bring a complicated Hollywood project to the screen.  Paul Dano also did an excellent job.  In real life, he's Zoe's boyfriend, and he was very believable in this role.  The movie also benefited from some high-powered talent playing supporting roles, namely Antonio Banderas, Annette Bening, and Elliot Gould.  All did an excellent job and obviously had a good time doing it.

So I highly recommend Ruby Sparks.  It's such a pleasure to find an exceptional film that has something intelligent to say, while having fun doing it.  Get it on Netflix and see what you think.

No comments: