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Crystal Fairy

Posted by martinteller on July 30, 2013

Jamie (Michael Cera) is an American visiting Chile, with plans to partake in the hallucinogenic “San Pedro” cactus.  He travels with three brothers: Champa, Lel and Pilo (Juan Andrés Silva, Jose Miguél Silva and Agustín Silva, all real-life brothers of director Sebastián Silva).  While loaded with cocaine at a party, Jamie off-handedly invites another American who calls herself Crystal Fairy (Gaby Hoffmann) to join them.  The next day, he is stunned to discover that she’s accepted the invitation.  While the three brothers are just trying to go with the flow and enjoy themselves, Crystal Fairy’s offbeat, hippie-ish behavior and mannerisms threaten to ruin Jamie’s trip.

I will say right off that this is a funny movie.  It’s not strictly a comedy and isn’t just joke-joke-joke, but there’s a number of very funny moments.  Most of the humor comes from the comical obnoxiousness of the two American characters, the conflicts between them, and the ridiculousness of their artificial routes to happiness.  Cera breaks out of his usual (and boring) nervous wallflower mode and excels at playing a self-absorbed douchebag.  I’ve known a couple of guys like Jamie, who feel the need to make their drug use into a finely-crafted “experience”, annoying everyone else who just wants to relax and enjoy it.  Jamie puts up a persona of being a laidback, cool guy, but in reality he’s never living in the moment.  You get the sense that he wants this drug experience just to have the story to tell afterwards.

And I’ve known a couple of gals like Crystal Fairy, too.  Here in Portland, they’re unavoidable.  Spewing a haphazard amalgamation of assorted new age crackpottery, barely understood Eastern spirituality, and feelgood nonsense, Crystal Fairy’s route to happiness is equally artificial.  But at least she seems to enjoy herself.  Hoffmann’s performance is the standout of the film.  There’s a fearlessness to it, and not just in the frequent (and not particularly flattering) nudity.  When she allows some vulnerability to peek through that façade, there’s something a little heartbreaking about it.

However, the film as a whole doesn’t leave much of an impression.  It’s enjoyable but it’s a fleeting enjoyment that evaporates after the lights come on.  Late in the movie we start to see the humanity of Jamie and Crystal Fairy (I don’t think she’s ever called just “Crystal” in the movie) and while I appreciate the effort, it feels like too little, too late.  As if Silva wanted to milk the comedy of these silly Americans for as long as he could before he imbued them with some depth.  At the time, it was a nice moment, but on reflection it comes off as perfunctory.

As far as the visual aspects of the movie, there’s not a lot to say.  Some people seem to be bothered by the jittery handheld camera, but I didn’t even notice it.  I’ve built up my tolerance through Dogme95 films, perhaps.  I was very glad that Silva didn’t put in some silly psychedelic sequence to show what it was like for the people tripping.  The film is very much that of an outside observer, I can’t recall any shots from the subjective point of view.

I give this a mild recommendation.  It’s almost worth seeing just for the performances, especially Hoffmann (the brothers Silva are quite fun as well, although quite underdeveloped compared to the leads).  There are some terrific moments.  But the film is too wispy and insubstantial to stick with you.  Rating: Good (70)


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