Monday, July 30, 2012

"Ruby Sparks": invent the idea lover in your fiction writing


I can relate to the idea of creating the ideal person (potential lover) on paper as a character in a novel.  I don’t have one “idee fixe” for perfection; it keeps shifting according to my latest experience (and any interaction with an interesting person can make his “properties” seem significant).

But in 1988, in a novel manuscript called “Tribunal and Rapture”, I did have a more fixed fantasy, who gradually becomes disclosed, first back in metro life and then in a hidden ashram, as the rest of the world falls apart (bear in mind, these were Cold War years).  I did have the idea that I could write my own personal future history.  I named the 80-inch tall character Craig Nickerstahn, a name that came in a dream.

In “Ruby Sparks”, we have a slender, nerdish but appealing young man Calvin, a once-successful novelist (Paul Dano, already echoing a similar role in “Being Flynn” [March 15, 2012]. I suppose that Paul could fit one of my ideals. (He was really compelling in “There Will Be Blood” (Jan. 4, 2008), a film showing where I actually “met” someone.)

Now, I don’t know why Calvin still writes on a manual typewriter, in a film where he also uses a smart phone.  If he wrote on a computer (eventually he does), the fantasy trace would be stored in the cloud.
I had an Royal typewriter, Elite type, from the 1940s, while in high school. For college, my father gave me a Pica typewriter with chemistry and math symbols added.  I had that machine fixed numerous times until the 1980s.

It’s hard to believe in real “writer’s block”.  What’s hard with fiction is to master your own content after you have written it.  You have to live in your fictitious world, and know what you want.

Nevertheless, Calvin goes to  a therapist (Elliot Gould) to get over his problem.

Now “The Girlfriend” (no intentional relation to the independent film by that name that I reviewed on July 16) becomes his successful second novel, but the phantom Ruby Sparks (Zoe Kazan) seems like a character out of “The Tempest”.  Yes, whatever he writes (that is, types by hand), she does, almost turning into a robot – a fantasy.

Dano is an executive producer of the film. Dano, in an interview, explains how Calvin falls in love with his character, and then she materializes.  But one could already be in love with a fantasy of a character that one creates.  (Imagine being “in love” with “Will” in “Days of our Lives”.)

No question, though, that his dog, who really loves him, will find the real Ruby for him.

The film, directed by Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris, written by Zoe, also offers some others who “made the A List” – including Chris Messina, as Calvin’s doubting brother, Antonio Banderas, Annette Bening,  and Steve Coogan. 

I enjoyed the background music, especially a waltz passage that I believe comes from Verdi's opera "Rigoletto". I thought I caught a quick excerpt from Tobe Hooper's "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre".

The film might be compared to "Barton Fink" (1991, the Coen Brothers, Fox) where a 40's screenwriter has writer's block. 

Here's an oddity: the previews (of "Ruby") have a scene (mentioning a Spanish teacher) that doesn't seem to appear in the finished film.  A deleted scene, maybe?

Fox Searchlight’s official site is here.

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