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Ruby Can’t Fail

August 23, 2012

So I saw “Ruby Sparks” the other day, and SPOILER ALERT GO BYE BYE NOW. I enjoyed it overall, mostly for the mechanics of the plot. Paul Dano is (!) a blocked, friendless writer who one day wakes up to discover that his typewriter has the power to create a real live woman out of his literal dream girl. Needless to say, power corrupts, and as he discovers that the free spirit he created is, well, a free spirit, he turns back to the typewriter to change her “back” into the hassle-free companion he wanted. Complications ensue.

Over time, we realize that he’s probably lonely not so much because he’s a sensitive soul, but because he’s a selfish bastard. The shadow of an ex-girlfriend who left him just after his dad died makes us think that he’s been mortally and unfairly wounded, until she turns up in the third act at a book party (Jessica the vampire from the no-longer-watchable True Blood) and we see that she left because he shut her out and is also otherwise an asshole in a bunch of ways anyway. He has a dog who was supposed to help him meet people but who turned out to be “afraid of people.” I liked the way they left it at that, letting you figure out for yourself that the dog was probably just reading his master’s tension and nervousness and reacting accordingly.

I admired the way they gave him a brother and, to a lesser degree, a therapist to keep the dialogue moving – otherwise how else do you make a movie about a friendless man? I did not admire the way the movie went Hollywood at the end, pressing the auto-redemption button and not only giving him another bestselling book but another shot at the girl he “set free,” who now blissfully has no memory of him. It was just too tomcruisy, to coin a word to describe a certain kind of movie: Cocky Asshole Learns Important Lessons About Life and Love and Becomes a Better Man.

Of course it made me think about Alex – the idea that you can create something, Pygmalion-like, that will be exactly what you want in a companion without having to put up with all the messy reality of real people’s little irritating things and bits. Though in flesh and blood, it never works out, in silicon and electrons it can…sort of. Alex, too, becomes something else other than what he was intended to be, but in this case the quest is to restore him to his “better man” state, since what he becomes in the hands of Big Media is a debasement of his freedom and personhood, rather than a blossoming of individual autonomy.

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