The movie opens up with Calvin Weir-Fields (Paul Dano) having a dream. A woman, the sun casting a halo effect around her, approaches him about a missing shoe. He wakes up to his miserable life. He’s a writer who wrote an acclaimed book after dropping out of high school, a decade ago. He’s written since, a book of short stories, but it is implied that he hasn’t reached the heights of critical success that were expected of him. He has no friends other than his brother, Harry (Chris Messina). He has casual sex with women who only sleep with him, because they read his book in high school. He spends his morning suffering from writer’s block and his afternoons acting child-like inhis therapy sessions with his psychologist, Dr. Rosenthal (Elliot Gould). Dr. Rosenthal suggests writing a one pager about how a person might react to seeing Scotty, Calvin’s dog.
This assignment along with another dream of the woman results in a frenzy of writing. As he writes, female-centric items start to pop up in his house. For example, Scotty brings a red shoe to Calvin. Is Calvin’s imagination creating his dream girl?
He wakes up one morning and there she is, Ruby Sparks(Zoe Kazan), making breakfast. He freaks, thinking he’s gone mad. He decides to leave the house, wanting some “real” human interaction, calling a literary groupie (Alia Shawkat) he met at a book signing. Ruby asks to go with him,thinking he’s going on an errand. He takes her along, but quickly ditches her. Ruby later finds him sitting with the girl at a restaurant and demands to know if he’s cheating on her. Everyone witnesses this confrontation. The unexplainable is reality.
She’s real, yes, but that is the problem. Calvin wrote her as his dream girl (an important criticism his brother highlights when reading a draft of the book). He expects the relationship to work out perfectly. Real life is different. She wants space. She doesn’t always want to have sex. She has different interests.
He fears that she is drifting away and knowing that he has the power, he starts to write changes to her character to turn her back to his dream girl. All of his attempts result in a distorted Ruby. Perhaps his brother was only partially correct in his criticism of the book. Calvin doesn’t know much about relationships, but he did initially create a rounded character that gets destroyed after every attempted re-write.
This movie mixes fantasy with reality in an interesting way and the message is clear: we need to realize that fantasy is not reality and that for relationships to work we need to understand that our significant others will never meet our dreamed-up expectations.
The movie’s twists and turns captivate. There are moments that are just plain laugh out loud funny especially when Annette Bening (mother)and Antonio Banderas (mother’s boyfriend) are on screen.
I do have one major problem with the movie. At one point, Calvin shows such vicious disregard for Ruby that you can’t help, but1.) despise Calvin and 2.) weep for Ruby. Perhaps this is a commentary about how our dark side occasionally emerges when the dream person turns into reality person, but his despicable behavior demands that you wish he’d exile himself to a monastery where he could repent. This scene makes it difficult to cheer for the relationship when you see that one individual in the relationship may actually be a sadist. Though this scene went too far for me, I believe that in total it is a wonderfully made movie.