By S. Jhoanna Robledo,
Common Sense Media Reviewer
Common Sense Media Reviewers
Indie romcom explores ego and love; language, sex talk.
A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
A relationship has its own life and runs its own course. There's no trying to control it; you can only try your best and take a leap of faith.
Positive Role Models
Calvin and Ruby are flawed and fascinating, sometimes simultaneously. Calvin wants to know himself and why he is the way he is (though he fights against the truth sometimes); Ruby is warm, open, and embracing.
Violence & Scariness
One particularly raw, potentially disturbing depiction of an intense argument between a couple. One resists the control with aggressive exertions, and it's sometimes difficult to watch.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Kissing/tenderness, flirting (including a scene in which Ruby says she's not wearing any panties), and sometimes-crude verbal references/allusions to sex -- including oral sex and other activities. Cleavage and a woman's bare shoulders/back (implying nudity) are seen; some shots of a woman in underwear.
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Words include several uses of "f--k," plus "s--t," "c--k," "poon," "jacks--t," "a--hole," "laid," "damn," "t-ts," and "oh my God."
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Products & Purchases
Labels referenced or seen include Apple, LifeFitness, Olympia, Crispix, BMW, and Prozac.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Social drinking. References to being stoned or smoking dope. Characters share a joint in one scene.
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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.
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Where to Watch
Based on 1 parent review
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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 ...
Families can talk about Calvin's "creation." What would it be like to be able to control the actions of a loved one? Would you want to?
What is Ruby Sparks saying about the nature of creativity and art? What about relationships?
- 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: January 19, 2023
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