Armed with only a recurring dream about a marvelous girl and Eliot Gould for a shrink, Paul Dano manages to bust through a tenacious ‘second novel syndrome’ writer’s block in the movie Ruby Sparks. Unfortunately, he relapses, but fortunately, he starts writing again until, unfortunately, he stops writing once more, until fortunately, he resolves his personal issues and writes an entirely different, better manuscript that (spoiler alert) becomes published and receives wide acclaim by the final scene.
It is not uncommon for an author to mine his or her dreams for creative inspiration, and geek, genius, wunderkind Paul Dano uses this technique to find his muse after Eliot Gould recommends that he write about his dream girl. Problem is, he then begins to find unexplained women’s undergarments in his desk drawer, until eventually, he finds the dream girl herself scrambling eggs in his kitchen. The science-defying space-time dynamics that made this fascinating development possible are never fully explained, but somehow Dano manages to write a girl character (played by Zoe Kazan) into three dimensional existence using his electric typewriter. He falls in love, of course, and complications ensue.
While this movie employs many of the expected conventions of the ‘writer’s block’ film genre, it does so in unconventional, delightful and surprising ways. Hollywood frequently presents a writer protagonist who: 1) is brilliant, 2) has had fantastic success with first novel, 3) is blocked on the second novel, 4) has unresolved personal problems with relationships and love, 5) meets someone who helps him learn and grow despite his flaws, and 6) finishes the movie with a new book published and new love blooming. Ruby Sparks has all these elements, but scrambles them up in unexpected ways that keep the movie engaging.
This movie also presents ideas about character development, and how writing can be either a vehicle for self-aggrandizement or a means of serving the story being told. Mainly it is enjoyable, quirky, and funny as it explores some serious themes with a bizarre plot. If you’re a writer, check it out.