This week’s #ScreenplaySunday is all about an actress who wrote her own role and made a splash in the industry; being nominated for countless awards, including Best Woman Screenwriter at the Alliance of Women Film Journalists in 2013. The story even won Zoe the Breakthrough Artist Award at the Detroit Film Critic Society, US in 2012. Zoe Kazan is living proof that if you have an idea, just go for it, and the magic can happen! I am reviewing Zoe’s original draft screenplay written on June 9, 2011, and originally titled “HE LOVES ME”.
The Story – This story touches on everything that makes us human. Fears of being alone and the fear of success. Aggressive/controlling gestures like naming your dog after your idol, and wanting to be in a relationship with yourself. Writing your dream girl and craving unconditional companionship, without any risk of getting hurt. And even coming up with a person’s flaws, but realizing, those are the flaws you want them to have, which I suppose, doesn’t make them flaws at all.
Outline – I’ve been doing a lot of research lately with some friends on what makes a good story and specifically what makes a good screenplay. ‘Ruby Sparks’ follows all the rules. For example, around page 30 (30 minutes in) Calvin enters his new world: a life with Ruby, his dream girl. Then on page 60 (60 minutes in) he reaffirms his goal of lifelong companionship: taking Ruby to meet his parents. It has a satisfying pre-climax bringing in characters we haven’t met but know haunt him (his ex girlfriend Lila). A very intense climax where Ruby finds out she can be controlled. And of course, it reaches a satisfying resolution where our hero (Calvin) is back in a restored world and we have hope for him and his future.
Character Development – The character development in this story is so strong, to the point that we fall in love with every character. Kazan also does a good job at telling us who’s not a really important character by not giving them a name. We meet people like: “older dude”, “sort of weird guy”, “cute hipster girl”, and “female professor”. This makes it very enjoyable to read because we can easily identify who’s important and who isn’t.
Imagery – The imagery that Kazan uses in this script is simple yet strong enough that I can envision the film from just reading it. She also has extremely creative scene transitions that I really appreciate. These came across very beautifully in the film probably due to the help of her creative writing.
Dialogue – Let me just say it was hard to find a real weakness in this screenplay. What I did find was that certain scenes were written to really drive the point home. For example, when Ruby is upset with Calvin she will have 2-3 lines that aren’t exactly necessary but are there to make sure we know how angry she is. In reality, because an actor will be performing these lines with full intentions behind it, all that dialogue isn’t necessary when performed. In the film this was adjusted for and it come across much more real and authentic.
MY FAVOURITE SCENE:
There are many good scenes in this screenplay. If I have to pick my actual favourite it would be after Calvin pushes the limit with Ruby and ruins their entire relationship by not only telling her that she was made up, but by making her do ridiculous things to prove it to her. It’s an extremely powerful scene. But what really moved me, was how he lets her go. We finally see Calvin let go of everything: his need to be perfect, his need to be loved, and his need for control. Which I think is something we can all learn from!
“As soon as Ruby left the house, the past released her. She was no longer Calvin’s creation. From that moment on only Ruby could determine the course of her life. She was free.”
Overall this was an astounding screenplay by Zoe Kazan. She speaks directly to everything that makes us human, while giving us a creative sci-fi plot to go along with it. I enjoyed watching each character become strong and independent in their own way: with Ruby gaining her independence, and Calvin gaining confidence in himself and his abilities. If you haven’t watched this film, I highly recommend adding it to your must-see-list!