Monday, August 13, 2012

Ruby Sparks: Why Perfect Wouldn't Work

I  saw a really interesting independent film this week called "Ruby Sparks." It's an engaging film,with several important messages to convey about the intricacy of relationships.

Calvin is a writer of a great American novel,as well as several important short stories when he is only 19. The story begins ten years later, as he is 29, and hasn't written anything recently. There is pressure to live up to his early success. He has broken up some time ago with his girlfriend of five years, who left him right after his father died. He seems very alone and isolated.

In a therapy session, Calvin's long-time psychotherapist, played by Elliot Gould, is trying to help free Calvin from writer's block. He suggests a writing assignment where Calvin begins to create a character of a perfect girlfriend. Calvin begins to write her, and she startles his reality by actually coming to life and showing up at his house as if they are really dating.

Amusing things unfold when Calvin tries to determine if others can see her, if she's real, or it's his overactive imagination. It's particularly funny as Calvin's brother arrives to help figure out if she's real and test her, and as Calvin takes Ruby on a weekend trip to Big Sur to meet his eccentric mother (Annette Bening) and warm but odd artist stepfather (Antonio Banderas).

Calvin begins to realize that as he continues to write his book about Ruby that he is truly the author of her character, moods, and traits. He can switch them out by writing about it. He can make her more clingy and less independent. He can make her more joyful. He can make her speak fluent French. He can even write it into her character that she loves him forever, and never leaves him.

What results from this folly is a lovely little meditation on human relationships, true intimacy, control, autonomy, and risk. Perhaps we really wouldn't want to edit out a loved one's eccentricities. Maybe it makes them the unique, separate person that we love. If we controlled the script, it would never let us see the natural storyline that is supposed to evolve between us and the other person.

Finally, it may because there is uncertainty and fragility in close relationships that they mean even more to us. You could lose that other person at any time, and that makes the time together that much more precious. There is no forever guarantee. In the end, maybe it's the differences that keep things interesting, and the fact that no human being is ever completely known to another.

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