The meta qualities of “Ruby Sparks”

Ruby Sparks

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By Jennifer Vineyard

When actress Zoe Kazan started writing “Ruby Sparks,” she came up with two main characters, Calvin, whose love life has been barren of late, and Ruby, his dream girl. Kazan’s real-life boyfriend, actor Paul Dano, turned to her later reading the first few pages, and asked, “Are you writing this for us?” “And she said, ‘Yes,’ but I think she just realized it then,” he told IFC.

This wasn’t because Kazan is also Dano’s dream girl, because the movie takes the literal approach to the phrase — Calvin dreamed up Ruby, and then she physically manifested, as if her very existence was dependent on his idea of her. And then, as Calvin learns, he can control his creation, too. If he types a line about Ruby speaking perfect French, suddenly she’s doing just that — completely unaware that she’s switched languages. Anything that displeases Calvin, he can tweak — if she’s too needy, or not needy enough.

Considering that while Calvin controls Ruby by writing her, and Kazan controls Dano by writing his character, the realization of the story has a certain meta quality, “just that the roles are reversed, right?” Dano laughed. “She wrote it, and I’m an actor, so the words she wrote in the film are the ones that I write for her, and she’s saying things that I write that she wrote for me.”

But that’s where the Pygmalion-ness of it all ends in real life, he insisted. “It doesn’t go beyond, ‘This is ironic,’ or, ‘This is interesting,'” Dano said. Although he did get to have a certain amount of input in Kazan’s script, but only as a supportive boyfriend.

“I would engage her and ask questions and be there for her, but I certainly did not try to shape any of the characters in any way,” he said. “I trust Zoe and she’s a wonderful writer, so I let her do her thing, and did anything I could to help her. I rarely thought about it in terms of, ‘I’m going to be in this.’ It was more like, if she were stuck, saying, ‘Keep going, baby!'”

Dano’s biggest contribution — outside of his own acting — was to hook Kazan up with his “Little Miss Sunshine” directors Valerie Faris and Jonathan Dayton. “About ten pages into Zoe writing it, I was like, ‘Jon and Val should direct this,'” he said. “And so for the rest of her writing, she was writing for them. They were the dream choice.”

Faris and Dayton — a couple themselves — had previously met Kazan, since Dano had stayed in touch with the directing team over the past six years. “I told them, ‘You have to meet my new girlfriend. You’d really like her,'” Dano said. “And luckily, it worked out, and the four of us had a very good collaboration.”

Faris said they spent about nine months working with Kazan, “developing and just working on the script, and getting to know it and getting to know her.” And for her part, Kazan learned to let go and give the directors control. “It was John and Val’s movie at that point,” Dano said.

After a few days of shooting, Dano also learned to put aside his self-consciousness about having his girlfriend take on dual roles. “Does it exacerbate it to have your girlfriend on set, on a scene that she’s the writer, so she’s watching? Yeah, there is that,” he said, “but you move on pretty quick. She was more like my partner-in-crime.”

Dano doesn’t expect to have quite the same level of input on any of his next projects — but then again, he’s usually not living with the writer. “It’s definitely different,” he laughed. “This one feels very personal, which is nice. Not every experience is going to be like this.”

“Ruby Sparks” is now playing in limited release.

Will you be seeing “Ruby Sparks” this weekend? Tell us in the comments section below or on Facebook and Twitter.

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Brock Hard

Brockmire’s Guide To Grabbing Life By The D***

Catch up on the full season of Brockmire now.

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“Lucy, put supper on the stove, my dear, because this ballgame is over!”

Brockmire has officially closed out its rookie season. Miss the finale episode? A handful of episodes? The whole blessed season?? You can see it all from the beginning, starting right here.

And you should get started, because every minute you spend otherwise will be a minute spent not living your best life. That’s right, there are very important life lessons that Brockmire hid in plain sight—lessons that, when applied thoughtfully, can improve every aspect of your awesome existence. Let’s dive into some sage nuggets from what we call the Book of Jim.

Life Should Be Spiked, Not Watered Down.

That’s not just a fancy metaphor. As Brockmire points out, water tastes “awful. 70% of the water is made up of that shit?” Life is short, water sucks, live like you mean it.

There Are Only Three Types of People

“Poor people, rich people and famous people. Rich people are just poor people with money, so the only worthwhile thing is being famous.” So next time your rich friends act all high and mighty, politely remind them that they’re worthless in the eyes of even the most minor celebrities.

There’s Always A Reason To Get Out Of Bed

And 99% of the time that reason is the urge to pee. It’s nature’s way of saying “seize the day.”

There’s More To Life Than Playing Games

“Baseball can’t compete with p0rnography. Nothing can.” Nothing you do or ever will do can be more important to people than p0rn. Get off your high horse.

A Little Empathy Goes A Long Way

Especially if you’ve taken someone else’s Plan B by mistake.

Our Weaknesses Can Be Our Greatest Strengths

Tyrion Lannister said something similar. Hard to tell who said it with more colorful profanity. Wise sentiments all around.

Big Things Come To Those Who Wait

When you’re looking for a sign, the universe will drop you a big one. You’re the sh*t, universe.

And Of Course…

Need more life lessons from the Book of Jim? Catch up on Brockmire on the IFC App.

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Oh Mama

Mommie May I?

Mommie Dearest Is On Repeat All Mothers Day Long On IFC

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The cult-classic movie Mommie Dearest is a game-changer. If you’ve seen it even just once (but come on, who sees it just once?), then you already know what we’re talking about.

But if you haven’t seen it, then let us break it down for you. Really quick, we promise, we’ll even list things out to spare you the reading of a paragraph:

1. It’s the 1981 biopic based on the memoir of Christina Crawford, Hollywood icon Joan Crawford’s adopted daughter.
2. Faye Dunaway plays Joan. And boy does she play her. Loud and over-reactive.
3. It was intended as a drama, but…
4. Waaaaaay over-the-top performances and bargain-basement dialogue rendered it an accidental comedy.
5. It’s a cult classic, and you’re the last person to see it.

Not sold? Don’t believe it’s going to change your life? Ok, maybe over-the-top acting isn’t your thing, or perhaps you don’t like the lingering electricity of a good primal scream, or Joan Crawford is your personal icon and you can’t bear to see her cast in such a creepy light.

But none of that matters.

What’s important is that seeing this movie gives you permission to react to minor repeat annoyances with unrestrained histrionics.

That there is a key moment. Is she crazy? Yeah. But she’s also right. Shoulder nipples are horrible, wire hangers are the worst, and yelling about it feels strangely justified. She did it, we can do it. Precedent set. You’re welcome.

So what else can we yell about? Channel your inner Joan and consider the following list offenses when choosing your next meltdown.

Improperly Hung Toilet Paper

Misplaced Apostrophes

Coldplay at Karaoke

Dad Jokes

Gluten Free Pizza

James Franco

The list of potential pedestrian grievances is actually quite daunting, but when IFC airs Mommie Dearest non-stop for a full day, you’ll have 24 bonus hours to mull it over. 24 bonus hours to nail that lunatic shriek. 24 bonus hours to remember that, really, your mom is comparatively the best.

So please, celebrate Mother’s Day with Mommie Dearest on IFC and at IFC.com. And for the love of god—NO WIRE HANGERS EVER.

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Breaking News

From Canada With Love

Baroness von Sketch Show comes to IFC.

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Breaking news that (finally) isn’t apocalyptic!

IFC announced today that it acquired acclaimed Canadian comedy series Baroness von Sketch Show, slated to make its US of A premiere this summer. And yes, it’s important to note that it’s a Canadian sketch comedy series, because Canada is currently a shining beacon of civilization in the western hemisphere, and Baroness von Sketch Show reflects that light in every way possible.

The series is fronted entirely by women, which isn’t unusual in the sketch comedy world but is quite rare in the televised sketch comedy world. Punchy, smart, and provocative, each episode of Baroness von Sketch Show touches upon outrageous-yet-relatable real world subjects in ways both unexpected and deeply satisfying: soccer moms, awkward office birthday parties, being over 40 in a gym locker room…dry shampoo…

Indiewire called it “The Best Comedy You’ve Never Seen” and The National Post said that it’s “the funniest thing on Canadian television since Kids In The Hall.” And that’s saying a lot, because Canadians are goddamn hilarious.

Get a good taste of BVSS in the following sketch, which envisions a future Global Summit run entirely by women. It’s a future we’re personally ready for.

Baroness Von Sketch Show premieres later this summer on IFC.

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