Fox Searchlight Pictures | Release Date: July 25, 2012
8.1
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Universal acclaim based on 103 Ratings
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ShiiraSep 21, 2012
This review contains spoilers, click expand to view. Meant as a pointed rebuke against the putative quintessence of women in contemporary film(both sides of the divide), the screenwriter, a female one, as a sort of excerpt from a corrective manifesto, says that "quirky, messy women aren't real," in which she uses Harry, the novelist's brother, as her voice, in a scene where he reads Calvin's manuscript about such a non-woman("You wrote a girl," he adds.), that addresses the trend of infantilizing women. Ruby is just one more waif, another suppositious female asservated from a patriarchal fantasy. Harry tells him, "You don't know jacks*it about women." With this observation, Harry encapsulates the bane of the genre, the romantic comedy, as a whole. A film such as Life as We Know It, a rom-com about godparents who are suddenly bequeathed their mutual friends' baby after a fatal car crash, makes you want to scream along with Mila Kunis, when she vociferates loudly, "Shut up, Katherine Heigl, you stupid liar!" in Friends with Benefits. Heigl's character acts like a child. Womanhood seems to have escaped her. Smiling wildly, despite the gravity of the moment, Holly could be thirteen when the lawyer reads the conditions of the will. On the indie front, Zooey Deschanel, known for her hyper-adorability, which can be sometimes ingratiating, sometimes affected, starred, appropriately enough, in both All the Real Girls, and Flakes. In Ruby Sparks, Harry advises Calvin to write about Lila, the last woman he dated. Calvin, however, is more savvy than he lets on; he doesn't need a lecture; he knows "women are different up close," and that they can be "mean as f*ck," but the former "voice of his generation" shies away from dealing with his ex, choosing instead to write about a servile and uncomplicated girl, the perfect type for a "hey, we're falling in love" montage. Quite knowingly, the screenwriter employs "Ca plane pour moi" to score the genre's requisite compendium of blissed-out moments of mutual affinity(the courting ritual abridged by quick cuts) shared between the young lovers as a means to foreground the latent artifice that belies the romance. Recorded by Plastic Bertrand, the name "Plastic" adeptly communicates the idea of a fake relationship. At a party, Calvin bumps into Lila, who as it turns out, is also a writer, a soon-to-be-published one, which may account for their break-up, since the viewer can make the reasonable presumption that the female novelist was thriving in her craft, while the once-celebrated author found himself being surpassed by his protege, a simultaneity worsened by his miring in a bout of protracted writer's block. "It's weird having two writers," Frank tells his older brother, concerning their parents in The Squid and the Whale, a concept that obviously weirded out Calvin, as well, not wanting to be washed-up like Bernard Berkman, an alpha male, who has a hard time handling his wife's upcoming novel being excerpted in The New Yorker. Both men are narcissistic bastards. "Yeah, well, dad influenced her. She never wrote before she met him," responds Walt, and likewise, Calvin, no doubt, introduced Lila to his craft, but at some juncture, it became a competition, as demonstrated in the scene where Bernard hits his wife, hard, on the shoulder with a ball swung intended to maim, in a contentious game of tennis. Implying as much, the rivalry that exists among writers, Lila says, "Of course not, you're a genius." Good shot. A parting shot. Not surprisingly, the genius makes Ruby a painter(a woman whose interpretation of Calvin would differ from Lila's jaded eye), and when the manuscript is finished, or rather, the finished product, Ruby, materializes in the kitchen, eating a bowl of Crisp-ex, he locks the novel away in his desk. This is where Ruby Sparks goes Charlie Kaufman-lite. As any published writer knows, once a book goes to market, it belongs to the public. But here, it's not the text that's held up for interpretation, it's a person, a character unknowingly estranged from her invented realm where she was fictitious. In a sense, people are reading Ruby, and each person perceives her differently, thereby changing the original meaning of the girl in ways that the author never intended. Ruby is made real through interpolation. Literally, the girl leaps off the page and takes on a life of her own, emphasis on "her own". She's leaving him. Out of desperation, the author rewrites her, turning the increasingly self-perpetuating girl into a codependent. In one scene, Ruby stops walking when Calvin lets go of her hand to answer his cell, stranding the girl on the other side of a busy intersection. She can't move forward without Calvin's assistance, since the writer retracted her life into a story, a plot. His hand is a pencil. The plot stops. He writes her steps. In Stranger than Fiction, the professor tells Harold to do nothing. Like Karen Eiffel, he controls her fate. Expand
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