(500) Days of Summer may have been my favourite film back in 2009, and who would have thought that Ruby Sparks served up a story today which is just as strong in emotions, and sucker punched me in the gut, leaving me breathless by the time the movie ended, weeping and aching in heart, and yet uplifted in spirit for its bittersweet feel. It's like a companion film in spirit, a reflection and examination into the dynamics of a relationship, with a little bit of fantasy thrown in, and how reality and fantasy don't really make good bedfellows when it comes to affairs of the heart, more often than not, having to taper expectations to meet with reality.
If gone in blind without knowing a thing about the film, one may have thought that it's probably written by a guy, given that this was quite the guy's wet dream, in having absolute control over a female counterpart just because, not having to deal with complex emotions that rear their ugly head once in a while, and able to almost wish it away at will. Well, the surprise here is that it's written by Zoe Kazan, who also plays the titular character of Ruby Sparks, and directed by the duo of Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris, responsible for Little Miss Sunshine, which explains the ability in making this a truly worthy follow up to their hit little film.
It's a writer's movie as well, centered around Calvin Weir-Fields (Paul Dano), a prodigy of sorts who had written one acclaimed novel some 10 years ago, in between writing some smaller works, but never having it in him to replicate the success of his virgin effort. Still remembered by fans everywhere but in dire need to put out one major work, inspiration one night through a series of dreams about a girl, led him to write about Ruby Sparks (Kazan), and lo and behold one day, in miraculous terms, Ruby truly exists in the world, inhibiting every single trait that he had wrote about. Never really recovering from his previous break up, he's now suddenly thrust into one, and one that he has complete control over, able to tweak Ruby just by typing what he wants into his manuscript.
Not since Adaptation by Spike Jonze a decade ago, had a film about a writer experiencing some existential emergency, enthralled me from start to finish. Ruby Sparks spent time to up the ante on the issue of her existence, whether only in Calvin's mind, or is in fact a real person, with humour coming from disbelief shared by Calvin's brother Harry (Chris Messina), and even then, with how things go, whether everything can possibly be made up by one person, locking himself up, and being extremely focused about having to cough up his next big novel. It's suggested, and opens itself that little avenue of possibility of being a lot more than just what is being put on screen.
But I digress. Kazan's screenplay probably nailed it spot on with her keen observations on relationships seen from a male perspective, but who knows that she could've also gotten key inputs from real life beau Paul Dano himself. And their chemistry in the film shows up really well, making it utterly believable that miracles can and do happen. And her screenplay was no mean feat as well, dealing with the insecurities of a man with an ego larger than he would admit to, with fantasies centered around control. And many of us have been there before, when things become a power play, with the story taking the characters down a slippery slope of being able to play god, and to literally manipulate, and hurt someone whom we hold dear to. Not forgetting of course the adage that we only miss something when we lose them.
Full of heart, warmth, and humour, Ruby Sparks got a lot closer personally, and I was fascinated at how a single character could have reminded me of two separate persons, which was as freaky as it was irresistibly engaging. Who would have thought that Ruby Sparks, without a doubt, would become the personal favourite film of the year to date, that it came out almost out of nowhere near expectations, and blew my mind away, just as how it addressed a certain pain point deep inside that wouldn't fade away until now. A definite recommendation!