• Reel Reviews

Sparks Fly

written by: on August 8, 2012

The scenario of Calvin Weir-Fields (Paul Dano) creating Ruby Sparks (Zoe Kazan) to be his ideal woman by drafting her story via a mystical typewriter has the potential to reach the creepy quota in the hands of less talented artists (think bookish hipster Weird Science meets Bride of Frankenstein). Luckily, the filmmakers strike just the right balance between light-hearted fantasy and cautionary tale as Calvin controls Ruby’s every move— like dancing a puppet on a string.

Additionally, Nick Urata (of the indie rock band Devotchka) deserves credit for establishing the whimsically romantic tone of “Ruby Sparks.”

The enchanting soundtrack from composer Urata employs a classical approach, allowing the orchestration to mimic Calvin’s varied emotional swells: from tender contemplation to soaring, operatic love to Peter and the Wolf-like trepidation. With stirring woodwinds accompanying Calvin’s musings, his manic-pixie-dream-girl hallucinations sound more endearingly hopeful than troublesomely psychotic:

“Ruby Sparks. 26 years old. Raised in Dayton, Ohio … got kicked out of high school for sleeping with her art teacher … she’s complicated. That’s what I like best about her.”

The chemistry between real-life couple Paul Dano and Zoe Kazan (also the film’s screenwriter) is a joy to watch on screen. However, the thrill of the “true and impossible” love affair in Ruby Sparks comes from the effectiveness of the film’s musical score. In the epic montage of first dates that immediately follows the echoing whoosh of their first kiss, a catchy pop song from the 1970s revs their relationship into high gear.

The quirky Euro theme continues throughout the film’s middle section, as Calvin introduces Ruby to his blended family—including supportive older brother Harry (Chris Messina), new age-y mother Gertrude (Annette Bening), and goofy man-of-the-earth stepfather Mort (Antonio Banderas).”Quande Tu Es La” plays as the young lovers drive to Gertrude and Mort’s ranch in Big Sur; “Psychedelic Train” waxes luxuriously over a night of pot-smoking and heated arguing on the compound; and on the way back home, “Roll It Round” by The Lions blasts ironic reggae from Calvin’s vintage car stereo.

Even the more subtle music moments leave a lasting impression. For example, the song that precedes Ruby’s sudden switch to fluent French (courtesy of Calvin and Harry’s typewriter tinkering) is just as adorably infectious as Ruby herself:

Despite the film’s otherworldly premise, Calvin’s core dilemma is still a relatable one. When Ruby eventually strays from the “perfect” mold in which she was created—and starts to exhibit real emotions that would make any normal relationship complicated and imperfect— Calvin’s lofty ideals are put to the test.

Can he still accept Ruby for who she is (flaws and all) without trying to change her, or will he forever chase the illusion of a manic-pixie-dream-girl that doesn’t exist?

Falling in love with an illusion is easy, especially when violins are playing in the background, but what makes the soundtrack to Ruby Sparks special is what transcends the character of Ruby beyond the trappings of a rom-com cliche. At first, she plays the role of scripted trope (a projection of her captor’s unrealistic hopes and dreams), but when her charms are no longer forced and her authentic self seeks independence, she is infinitely more lovable. Similarly, the music of Ruby Sparks is a whirl of familiar schmaltz on the surface with unexpected and often bizarre delights hidden like gems underneath.

Various Artists – Ruby Sparks Soundtrack tracklist:

  1. “Creation”
  2. “Writer’s Block”
  3. “Inspiration!”
  4. “Ruby Sparks”
  5. “I was Waiting for You”
  6. “I’ll Go With You”
  7. “She’s Real”
  8. “Ca Plane Pour Moi” (Plastic Bertrand)
  9. “Une Fraction De Seconde” (Holden)
  10. “He Loved You”
  11. “Quand Tu Es La” (Sylvie Vartan)
  12. “Psychedelic Train” (Derrick Harriott)
  13. “Roll It Round” (The Lions)
  14. “Miserable”
  15. “Inseparable”
  16. “You’re a Genius”
  17. “The Past Released Her”
  18. “She Came to Me”
  19. “Can We Start Over”
  20. “Ruby Was Just Ruby”