A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that indie romance Ruby Sparks is layered and hard to classify, despite its romcom positioning. It has moments of whimsy but also intense scenes that may be too heavy for younger teens and tweens. There's no nudity beyond some bare shoulders, but expect some swearing (including "f--k"), references to sex (including oral sex), and social drinking, as well as complex explorations into the nature of relationships.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
Calvin Weir-Fields (Paul Dano) is a Los Angeles wunderkind who wrote a seminal novel at the tender age of 19 but now, at 29, can't quite produce his sophomore masterpiece. Then he wakes from a dream pulsing with creativity and an obsession with the girl he found in it, a pretty and maddeningly charming painter named Ruby (Zoe Kazan). At the urging of his shrink (Elliott Gould), Calvin writes about Ruby until, without explanation, he has, as his brother (Chris Messina) points out, "manifested" her. Ruby appears in Calvin's kitchen, an amazing girlfriend at the ready. Calvin discovers he can control Zoe by simply writing her, but is that what he wants? And is that what's best for Zoe?
Is it any good?
The first half of RUBY SPARKS is near perfection. Within the first 10 minutes, it feels like you're in for a real treat: a romantic comedy that's neither stale nor trying too hard. A lot of this has to do with the film's premise, which is brilliant on so many levels, the least of which is love. While it's true that you'll walk away with questions worth pondering -- What's it like being in a relationship with someone who does everything you want them to do? Can a couple survive when one grows and the other one doesn't? -- Ruby Sparks also makes you think about the nature of art, especially when it comes to writing.
The second half of the film is compelling, too, but the tonal shift is so abrupt that it's jarring, and you're left wondering what it would have been like had the film gone down a more whimsical, magical, and quite likely just as poignant (and wise) path as the one it ends up pursuing. Given the ending (no spoilers!), you might even wonder why the filmmakers went down that initial route in the first place. Grit thrown into the froth of a cutesy indie romance has its rewards -- and Ruby Sparks is certainly rewarding overall -- but was a more potent movie sacrificed? Either way, this one is still a prize.
Talk to your kids about ...
- In theaters: July 25, 2012
- On DVD or streaming: October 30, 2012
- Cast: Annette Bening, Paul Dano, Zoe Kazan
- Directors: Jonathan Dayton, Valerie Faris
- Studio: Fox Searchlight
- Genre: Romance
- Run time: 104 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: language, including some sexual references, and for some drug use
- Last updated: April 23, 2020
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