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I’ve been looking forward to seeing Ruby Sparks (2012) and finally got my hands on a copy. Starring and written by Zoe Kazan, the movie is smart, entertaining, and thought-provoking — especially for writers.

In the story, Calvin Weir-Fields, played by Kazan’s real-life love, the always fascinating and appealing¬†Paul Dano, is approaching 30 and 10 years past his breakthrough novel written when he was a teenage wunderkind. Now he’s afraid of failure and can’t write. His analyst, Dr. Rosenthal — in a charming cameo by Elliott Gould — tells Calvin to write about someone who will love him unconditionally. Calvin asks whether it’s okay if he writes “badly” — and Rosenthal gives him permission to write “very badly.”

Freed from his inhibitions, Calvin creates his dream woman — Ruby Sparks (Kazan) — and a novel begins to flow out of him. He falls in love with his creation to the point that she becomes real — appearing one morning in his kitchen. At first, he thinks he’s lost his mind — but when other people can see Ruby, he realizes he has dreamed her into existence.

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After the first blush of romance, problems crop up — until Calvin figures out he can get Ruby to do anything he desires, just by writing a new page in the novel, which he types on a vintage Olympia typewriter (nice touch!). The movie is at its best in the darker passages when exploring relationship dynamics — and how couples engage in power struggles and negotiate truces.

I enjoyed the film’s literary references and antecedents — Pygmalion, Frankenstein, Pinocchio, The Wizard of Oz, Alice in Wonderland¬†— but Ruby Sparks has an original point of view with new things to say. I also enjoyed the L.A. locations — especially Calvin’s minimalist home near Griffith Park and several scenes at Skylight Books.

Writers are always faced with philosophical, moral, emotional, and intellectual dilemmas related to their creations. As we write, our characters take on lives of their own, and when finished the book takes on a life of its own. What is the writer’s part in the equation? Ruby Sparks helps us explore this question and many more.

Hats off to Zoe Kazan for a terrific screenplay and winning performance!

Find Ruby Sparks at Amazon.com.