Ah, the Manic Pixie Dream Girl. Whether it’s Zooey Deschanel, Natalie Portman, Zooey Deschanel, Kate Winslet, or…Zooey Deschanel, it’s a character that has become all too familiar in movies – particularly indie movies – in the past decade or so. A quirky, unpredictable girl who brings the male protagonist to life and turns his life into a constant adventure.
In this case, it’s Zoe Kazan as Ruby Sparks, who is, quite literally, the dream girl of writer Calvin (Paul Dano). He dreams about her, then begins writing a book about her. Then, to his understandable surprise, one day Ruby materializes in Calvin’s kitchen, seemingly unaware that she had no existence before he dreamed her up. At first all is wonderful and happy for the two (once Calvin comes to grips with this odd occurrence), but eventually Ruby gets bored existing for the sole purpose of making Calvin’s life better. She’s unhappy. So, Calvin writes more in his book, this time making her happy all the time. Her constant joy grows tiresome, so he must write her differently. Needless to say, these rewrites go on for a while as Calvin tries to achieve the perfect balance in Ruby.
This movie, written by star Zoe Kazan herself, takes the idea of the Manic Pixie Dream Girl and reveals why this male fantasy puts so much pressure on the girl in question. At one point Ruby says something to Calvin about him not having any friends. He says, “I have you. I don’t need anyone else.” To which she responds, “that’s a lot of pressure.” This MPDG concept puts all the onus on the girl to make a relationship exciting, with the guy just going along for the ride. All he has to do is accept her for who she is. “I love your mess,” Calvin says at one point.
This whole idea was explored to a similar extent in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. That’s another character, Joel, who simply wants to go along for the ride with Clementine, and she lets him tag along because he’s nice and accepts her manic ways. Though, only for a while, until she gets bored with his lack of emotional intimacy.
The performances are all good enough, including smaller roles featuring Annette Benning, Antonio Banderas, and Elliott Gould. Though, I feel like the concept/story succeeds more entirely than the execution of it. It drags a little at times, and that ending wasn’t so hot…