First, I should say I went in with fairly low-expectations, so that is undoubtedly affecting my assessment of the film.
Here are some comments and questions off the top of my head:
>I can see this film exciting young people who are starting to crave something more than dumb Hollywood films.
>The film seems to be about two intertwined themes: 1) the nature of creating art and the relationship between the art and the artist; 2) the expectations and control we place on our SO—versus accepting them for who they are. I’m not sure if these two themes blend very well, but I’d be interested in discussing this with others.
>Overall I was pretty satisfied with the film, but I thought it could have improved on two points: 1) the character arc. I’m thinking specifically of the way the film could have indicated Calvin’s darker side earlier in the film. When his ex-gf confronts him, some of the details surprised me—ditto Calvin’s scary behavior while he’s controlling Ruby with the typewriter at the end of their relationship. Also, the change he seems to go through by the end seems a bit rushed. The problem could be due to the writing, acting or maybe the directing. (I sort of think it was the latter.)
>2) the various tones employed in the film. Given the mixture of light comedy, serious themes and darker moments, the filmmakers faced a tough challenge balancing all of these elements. The film does an OK job of this, but I thought it could have been a little better.
That the movie about the guy who creates a living fiction character? It seems kind of similar to the Will Ferrel movie about the character that becomes aware of being such…. Trickle down post modernism. Like Pleasantville.
or Weird Science?
That’s the film. It’s better than Stranger Than Fiction (although that might not be saying much). I think this film is more thoughtful and more successful.
On the other hand—and I forgot to mention this criticism—I do think some of the themes or “messages” (e.g., the necessity of releasing control over one’s art and one’s SO) felt a bit trite for me. But the ride the film took me on was pretty good one. But maybe some of you won’t agree with my reading of the film; hence, the thread.
I think it’s significantly different from Weird Science. This would be a very different film if it were a typical Hollywood film. Antonio Banderas, Annette Bening and Elliot Gould are also in this (although they don’t play very interesting characters).
Can I assume this film is not on Netflix streaming yet? What is it about the surprising aspects of the characters darker moments that bothers you Jazz? I’m not concerned about spoilers. What aspecte of the film would you think I would like?
My cheap way of drawing you into discussion has worked, I see. ;)
No, this isn’t streaming on netflix.
I’m not sure I can describe the darker moments without describing most of the movie. (I’ll try if you are really interested.)
As for recommending the film to you, I was being slightly facetious—but I definitely thought of you—for two reasons: 1) It’s a fantasy film—a guy writes about a woman and she becomes his real life girlfriend; and I recall you saying how you don’t like fantasy films; 2) the film actually explores questions about art and the artist as well and parallels this with the way we control and/or accept our SO. In the process, the film takes you to some dark places that one might not expect because the premise of the film is pretty silly and fantastic. Also, the film does have humorous moments that aren’t so different from something you’d see in a Hollywood comedy. So when the darker moments occur, it’s a bit of a surprise. (Let me explain one detail and I think you can make a guess about the darker parts of the film. The main character, an author, learns that he can actually control the woman by typing whatever he wants. When he first creates the character, he does so as a creative writing exercise.)
It doesnt sound great but almost nothing does in summation to me anymore. I am not as stringently comitted to realism as may be inferred by some of my more poorly worded posts. I will look for it when it streams, office it ever does, and get back to you.
On a related note this thread has inspired me to try to come up with a loose description of what exactly I am looking for Ina film as opposed to what I am trying to avoid:)
Sorry, phone typing while drinking;)
To be clear, it’s not a great film by any means—especially if you go expecting one. But if some of your non-cinephile friends dragged you to this, I could see you being pleasantly surprised. (Hopefully, you’ll forget enough of this conversation to get a similar effect. ;)
(FWIW, you do seem pretty stringent about realism in films.)
Sounds like a good thread. :)
I probably won’t see it unless I come across some friends who really want to see it in a group.
The previews made me think of Stranger Than Fiction, which I liked.
Out of curiosity, does it end up making slavery comparisons? Does it bring up the issue of how, in a fictional story we create, we have absolute control, but you can’t ethically control a real person no matter how much you’d like the ability to?
The typewriter thing makes me think of Soapbox, or whatever the name of that John Candy movie was.
No, it doesn’t make comparisons to slavery; yes, it sort of touches on the ethical question you mention—but not so much in an ethical way, imo.
It’s by no means a great film, but you can see the intelligence and thoughtfulness behind the film. You could say it was written by a talented college student—with the results being largely successful.
Have you seen that John Candy movie where he plays the writer of a soap opera who gets hit by a car, and dreams he dies and his punishment in hell is to live in his own soap opera?
In that movie he has the same power over the universe with his typewriter, and he has to contend with his fellow writers taking the story in sensational directions.
No, I haven’t seen the film. It sounds like it was more on the silly side. This film has some of that silliness, in a Hollywood way, but it’s a little more thoughtful, too. It’d be a good compromise film to see with your non-cinephile budies. Plus, you might get an interesting conversations afterwards.
agree with most of Jazz’s assessments. the tonal shifts really bothered me. takes away from the emotional impact/payoff. there didn’t seem to be any focus. Jazz points out that the two themes of art/artist’s relationship and expectations and control in dealing with SO don’t mesh well. I agree.
clearly Zoe Kazan is talented. she plays the lead and was the writer (of the film). she wrote herself a very difficult role and played it well. OTOH Paul Dano’s role was boring and not really best suited for him. especially the early rom-com parts of the film. I found myself LOLing at their courtship scenes. I’m a Dano fan but he isn’t the frolicking on the beach puppy dog in love eyes type.
the brother of Dano belongs in a Judd Apatow film. hackneyed character.
I think I liked the film more than you did Jazz. but you’re on point about its shortcomings.
OTOH Paul Dano’s role was boring and not really best suited for him. especially the early rom-com parts of the film. I found myself LOLing at their courtship scenes. I’m a Dano fan but he isn’t the frolicking on the beach puppy dog in love eyes type.
I don’t think the rom-com stuff was a problem, so much as the evolution into darker and more complex terrain of the character. But I have a feeling that the problem wasn’t Dano so much as the director. Conveying the character development and complexity requires sensitivity and precision, which involves shaping the scenes with the camera and the editing (not to mention specific instructions to the actor). I don’t know if you agree, but I got a sense that the director’s skill level wasn’t high enough
Yeah, but I had more problems with the actor and the execution. Another actor could have made the part more effective, I think. (I thought the other characters were hackneyed as well and some good actors were wasted in those parts.)
I think I liked the film more than you did Jazz…
74/100 is relatively high rating (at least for me—-indeed, looking it at it now, I think it’s a bit too high). Would you give the film a higher rating?
the thing about the rom-com stuff was that I didn’t buy it. the obligatory musical montage of the newly in love couple came close to being a parody. its placement in the film takes away from any emotional impact. why should we care about them being together at that point in the film? we don’t even know anything about Ruby besides what Dano has written about her and even that is just factual things that say nothing of her personality. sure Dano’s character enjoyed the beach and arcade romp but the viewer has nothing invested in them at that point.
the 2nd theme you mentioned in OP: the expectations and control we place on our SO—versus accepting them for who they are.
a theme better addressed by mumblecore.
I really enjoyed the theme of art/artist/creating/fiction. Charlie Kaufmanesque.
I gave it a 3/5. which translates to ‘moments of greatness’.
There was a lot of good in this, but I wanted to get out a red pen to Kazan’s screenplay. If she lopped off the ending (which honestly I wonder if it was some test screening addition) and cut out most of the peripheral stock characters it would probably be a very good movie. As it is, it is merely above average with moments of greatness poking through here and there.
Four months late to the party….
Caveat: As a general rule I believe that film criticism turns into the blathering of an egomaniac when a critic assails a film for failing to be whatever the critic wanted it to be instead of assessing it for what it is.
Enter Ruby Sparks. At about the half hour mark I saw an opening, a chance for writer Zoe Kazan to kill the myth of the “manic pixie girl”, drag her body out back, and bury it six feet deep. I said to myself right then that if Ruby Sparks could carry through on its potential, I would probably have to drastically rearrange my choices for best movies of 2012. Kazan chose to go elsewhere. Ruby Sparks is clever enough in its concept, but clearly has no idea where to go with it. It could’ve been the modern equivalent of a classic Howard Hawks film or Woody Allen circa 1985, but instead Ruby Sparks turns into nothing but self-indulgent indie melodrama.
Now that we know Ruby Sparks failed to be what I wanted it to be, I have to say that it was pretty entertaining. And not a little insightful on the subject of fantasies of lonely males.
At about the half hour mark I saw an opening, a chance for writer Zoe Kazan to kill the myth of the “manic pixie girl”, drag her body out back, and bury it six feet deep. I said to myself right then that if Ruby Sparks could carry through on its potential,…
I’m curious to hear what you have in mind, specifically. For example, if you had the chance to direct the film, what would have liked to see happen?
Ruby Sparks is clever enough in its concept, but clearly has no idea where to go with it. It could’ve been the modern equivalent of a classic Howard Hawks film or Woody Allen circa 1985, but instead Ruby Sparks turns into nothing but self-indulgent indie melodrama.
That (“no idea where to go with it,” “nothing but a self-indulgent…”) seems a bit harsh, and I don’t really agree. It seemed to have an idea of where it wanted to go, but it just didn’t execute the plan well enough. My sense is that the film wanted to do several things—all of which amounted to a rather big ambition:
1. It wanted to be both a comedy in a light rom-com way and a serious, even dark, exploration of relationships and art;
2. It tried to combine the nature of relationships with the relationship between an artist and his/her work.
My sense is that the director doesn’t successfully deal with all of these elements; he doesn’t really unify these elements. Dano’s character arc—both in terms of the writing and acting (although I sense the director was mostly to blame)—was also flawed, in my opinion.
*Now that we know Ruby Sparks failed to be what I wanted it to be, I have to say that it was pretty entertaining.
Yeah, there’s something to that.
As it is, it is merely above average with moments of greatness poking through here and there.
Some spoilers below for those who haven’t seen the movie.
When Dano gives his first draft to his brother, the criticism of the draft is that Ruby isn’t a real person. She’s a fantasy girl, in which her problems and insecurities are somehow endearing. The myth of the “manic pixie dream girl” caters to the male urge to protect someone, but it completely idealizes the flaws. If Dano were to get his dream girl, she would drive him up the wall. Ruby Sparks sidesteps an exploration of this by having Dano constantly change her, and further sidesteps it by having those changes exaggerated. The best part of the movie, for me was when Ruby decides to take a dip with Steve Coogan. Why? Because if we recall during the creation scene (montage/VO), Dano makes Ruby attracted to older men and has had a lot of relationships with them. It’s this type of detail that Dano would find sort of cute that he can also fix by being her new love. But the problem can’t be fixed because her attraction to older men is built into her character. I thought it would’ve been really clever for Dano to have to deal directly with his creation, with the movie constantly harkening back to the “cute problems” that he made – like she doesn’t drive a car, Dayton is an armpit of a city, etc. I wanted Dano to kill Ruby off, not to free her. He need to recognize that she was only a product of his imagination, without agency, and therefore not human.
I am being a little harsh, yes, but the movie seemed to walk off a cliff when Dano, super emotional, starts to make Ruby speak French, snap her fingers, strip, etc. Aiming for drama sapped the film of its life. The concept is inherently funny, but Ruby Sparks rarely captures that.
OK, I think I understand where you’re coming from. You’re saying that the “manic pixie girl” wouldn’t be a barrel of laughs as a significant other, and you wanted the film to show this—the message being: “Hey guys, you really think this fantasy is so cool? Uh, no.” Is that where you’re coming from?
If so, I think this is an interesting idea, but I don’t think the film wanted to go there (and I suspect you realize that).
But the problem can’t be fixed because her attraction to older men is built into her character. I thought it would’ve been really clever for Dano to have to deal directly with his creation,…
And maybe as a straight comedy, with satire directed at this type of fantasy, the film could have been more successful. But I think that’s less ambitious than the film’s objective.
…but the movie seemed to walk off a cliff when Dano, super emotional, starts to make Ruby speak French, snap her fingers, strip, etc. Aiming for drama sapped the film of its life.
I didn’t really feel that way. I thought this made for an interesting turn of events, but I just don’t think the film made this transition very successfully.
The concept is inherently funny, but Ruby Sparks rarely captures that…
But I think the concept also has the potential for exploring these ideas about the relationship between control and letting go and this tension can be seen in both relationships between people and relationships between artists and their creations. It’s a natural fit, and the film tried to explore this.
Not really sure why it would be less ambitious, or why less ambition would matter, but I think that would’ve been a fantastic aim. American comedy – straight comedy – has been kind of dormant for a while now, and it would be a real treat to see an intelligent comedy.
Yes, I do. And I’m not exactly against the direction it took, just disappointed. I really like the idea of Dano’s ability to change Ruby whenever she exasperated him, but I don’t think they carried it to its potential.
American comedy – straight comedy – has been kind of dormant for a while now, and it would be a real treat to see an intelligent comedy.
Sure, and I don’t really disagree with this. I don’t really mean to suggest that the film would be inferior if it was less ambitious.
And I do think the trying to play with the romantic relationships and the artist-creation relationship—within a rom-com genre is quite ambitious. That’s a lot balls to juggle and very different ones at that.
Yes, I do. And I’m not exactly against the direction it took, just disappointed.
Got it. It can be really hard to enjoy a film when it disappoints your expectations. Once you start anticipating a certain direction—and you really start hoping you’re correct—if the film goes in another direction, it’s hard to make the cognitive adjustments at that point. (It might be interesting to examples of when this has happened.)
…but I don’t think they carried it to its potential.
I agree with this. The film could have been a lot better.
By the way, what do you make of the scenes with Dano’s family? I can barely remembered what happened in those scenes, and I feel like they were pretty unnecessary (not to mention a waste of talent—Annette Benning)
They seemed kind of goofy to me, a diversion. And yeah, since they didn’t really do much to develop Ruby, the relationship, or even anything that would pay off with the parents later, I thought it was probably the weakest section of the film overall.