Sunday, July 29, 2012

Ruby Sparks

The objectification of women is not only the theme of the ludicrous and dreary romcom “Ruby Sparks” but its sustaining vision. Paul Dano, the most mannered and false young actor working in Hollywood, plays the vaguely antisocial author Calvin Weir-Field, whose first novel evoked comparisons to Salinger but who’s getting nowhere on his next. Until, that is, a wisp of a dream in which an apparition of a young woman beckons to him, and he can’t stop writing about her.

She is Ruby Sparks (Zoe Kazan), and Calvin wakes up one morning to find her mixing pancake batter in his kitchen. Everything about her is just as he’s described, and he can make her do anything: tell him she loves him forever, snap her fingers incessantly, even speak in French. Whenever she starts to show an ounce of free will, he just pulls out his trusty Olympia typewriter. (It’s the most disempowering movie since “Weird Science.”)

A sojourn in which Calvin and Ruby visit the Big Sur hippie commune of his mother and her new husband (Annette Bening and – Antonio Banderas?!) seems to have been edited in from another, equally bad, movie. Meanwhile, when will the sexy and talented Chris Messina find a part worthy of him? As Calvin’s disbelieving brother, he’s reduced to strident declamations and silly spit takes. In the end, the clingy and unhealthy relationship at the heart of “Ruby Sparks” induces in all of us, characters and audience alike, the same response: to flee.

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