Crystal Fairy & The Magical Cactus
Directed by: Sebastián Silva
Cast: Michael Cera, Gaby Hoffmann, Agustin Silva
Running Time: 1 hr 38 mins
Release Date: July 19, 2013 (Chicago)
PLOT: A young American (Cera) ventures through Chile to experience the drug experience that comes from carefully cooking the San Pedro cactus. He is joined by a spiritual American woman (Hoffmann) who gets on his nerves immediately.
WHO’S IT FOR? Fans of Cera and his recent odd projects should certainly take a look. If anything, don’t go into this film expecting it to be a comedy.
Whether this marks the continuation of fully reinventing himself or just his star image, Michael Cera’s presence continues to be lively, playing against the awkward simpleton roles that began to box him in with movies like Youth in Revolt. As with his own directed bizarre short “Brazzaville Teen-Ager” and his cocaine-snorting appearance in This is the End, Cera is something to watch here as he plays coyly against whatever expectations you may still have of him, especially with his embracing of his character’s largest imperfections. The innocence that we felt for his previous characters of younger years has been replaced with something much sharper on the edge, and sometimes plainly unlikable. Enabled by his selfish foreigner character that encourages him to be a jerk, Cera is lively as he cuts loose.
Playing the film’s pretentious moral angel, Gaby Hoffmann similarly owns up to the unlikable traits of her title character, readily making her tough to embrace. For a great amount of the Crystal Fairy, watching her character parade her many ridiculous behaviors like the script’s trying to make a “quirky” version of pretentiousness doesn’t make for a particularly funny or interesting experience. Instead, Hoffmann herself is tedious with her spiritual artsy-fartsy-ness, testing the viewer to clearly not like her, regardless as to how annoying she gets. In this regard, a well-performed monologue in the film’s final minutes come like a slap to the face so far from left field that it very closely registers as being poor taste.
Though Silva comes into this story with a very personal angle (as discussed in my interview, if you’re curious), his own inclusions to the story are uneven in their results. His editing, for example. Silva’s pacing is far slower than it should be, dragging out this story through its weird routes. Certain events in the movie are striking, (such as the scene in which Cera’s San Pedro desperation reaches its peak), but they don’t create an impression beyond hazy. In the end, Crystal Fairy is so slow that the pacing becomes one of its most glaring attributes, in spite the compelling oddities swirling around its center lesson.
A weird film that only settles in days after seeing it, Crystal Fairy & The Magical Cactus is a moral event played out in the background of a hazy drug trip. One could look at this film and imagine it to be a hippy-dippy road trip movie, but its core is even simpler and sweeter than that. Playing out a necessary lesson that is universal but feels excised in particular from Cera’s regular high school-age setting, Crystal Fairy is a mystical slap of reality about not judging a person by their cover, regardless of how other-worldly they make themselves out to be.
FINAL SCORE: 6/10