Rating: 3 out of 5
Length: 98 minutes
Release Date: July 12, 2013
Directed by: Sebastian Silva
Overview – Crystal Fairy
There is a bad stereotype about rude American tourists that persists in some parts of the world, largely due in part to people like Jaime, the character played by Michael Cera in “Crystal Fairy.” Jaime is a spoiled brat of a man who has never had a reason to grow up. He and few of his hard-partying friends travel to Chile where they show no respect to the locals, opting instead to continue their self-centered ways. While there, they embark on a series of adventures, some planned and some not, that could change their lives forever.
Jaime starts the trip off with a party full of women and cocaine, ready to debauch the night away. Instead, he meets Crystal Fairy, a fellow American who shares way too much and seems to be a free spirit of sorts. In a drunken stupor, Jaime invites her to take a road trip with him and his friends out to a beach at the end of the Chilean desert. The plan is to procure a piece of San Pedro cactus, which has hallucinogenic properties. They can’t find any initially, so Jaime, who is angry that his grand plan has been derailed, makes it his mission to find some of the storied cactus.
After trying several places, Jaime and his friends are still coming up empty. They spot a very large San Pedro cactus in a local woman’s yard, but she refuses to give them any. Since Jaime is a jerk, he grabs a knife, runs onto the woman’s property, and cuts off a huge hunk of the cactus. The friends escape to the beach, where they all drink in some of the juice of the cactus and begin tripping.
They spend the night there on the beach, opening up and sharing, except for Jaime, who is still guarded. Crystal Fairy takes it upon herself to try and get him to share his feelings and stop hiding behind his mask. In trying to get him to open up, she opens up as well, revealing the secrets she hides behind her constant façade of happiness. Both characters are changed by their time on the beach, but will the transformation be permanent once the drug high wears off?
It would be very easy for the screenwriter to make a loutish character like Jaime into a one-dimensional person with little to no character development. Instead, writer Sebastian Silva, who also directed the film, takes Jaime through a lot of personal growth in the film. The entire movie is a journey of sorts for Jaime, who starts off as a selfish man who doesn’t acknowledge anything or anyone outside of his bubble.
His worldview is very narrow, a sad fact made even sadder by the fact that he doesn’t seem to care about it. Slowly, with the help of Crystal Fairy, he sheds his hedonistic ways and his physical journey through Chile becomes more of a psychological one. This characterization is pulled off because Silva wrote a great script, and because Cera has the acting chops to pull it off.
Silva and Cera have worked together before, another reason why Cera is able to pull off the part so well. It is a more mature part than what he normally takes, but he really sells it because he is obviously comfortable with his director and the material. Silva seems to have a knack for pulling great performances out of actors, since he manages to do just that with Hoffman. The supporting cast of friends is also top-notch, making the acting in the film great across the board.
These are believable characters experiencing a believable life transformation, which makes them interesting and occasionally relatable as well. Even with a great all-around cast, this is still Cera’s film, and he really rises to the occasion. He is great in all his scenes, particularly those where he shares the screen with Hoffman. They share a nice, believable chemistry as two opposites who grow more and more attracted to each other as the film progresses.
The story of a man going through an emotional journey that changes his life may seem a bit clichéd by now, but Silva breathes new life into it with “Crystal Fairy.” Most films about a changed man are dramas, but this film is an unabashed comedy. Sure, there are occasional dramatic scenes, but the goal is to make the audience laugh at all the absurdities that people encounter when they try and turn over a new leaf. The goal is accomplished through a great script and Cera playing against type, to the delight of anyone who catches a screening of this fun indie comedy.
Remember when Michael Cera only used to play skittish nerds? Well he seems to be moving on but now he’s only playing drug-addled jerks. Only where “This is the End” was a fantastic stunt, his role in “Crystal Fairy” is less fun, and you wonder why Chilean director Sebastian Silva, well known for winning the international film award at Sundance-2009 for “The Maid”, really thought this thing was enough to hold interest despite the fact that there is so little going on.
Cera plays Jamie, an American vacationing Chile. He has three friends down there, the film makes no reference to how he knows them but then again Jamie doesn’t seem like the kind of guy who cares much about people. The only reason he’s made the trip in the first place is to acquire some San Pedro, which is a drink you can make from a cactus that has psychedelic tendencies apparently.
One night at a party thrown by one of the friends, the coke and weed fueled- Jamie feels the need to talk to a “dancing tornado” of an American woman who calls herself Crystal Fairy (former child star Gabby Hoffman). This party sequence is full of pounding music and roving camera and it’s hard to tell what’s happening but the next day, when Jamie and his friends begin their road trip journey to find the cactus, he learns, to his chagrin, that he has actually invited Crystal along for the ride.
Crystal, we learn, is a vegetarian hippie who feels the need to spread the word about the dangers of sugars and the importance of ingesting essences, while being free with her hairy body.
Jamie is a hyperactive twit who I sympathized with every time he would talk trash about her behind her back (“Hairy Fairy”). She’s horribly annoying, but the thing is, so is he. They both coast through aimless movie trying to find a cactus, then when they finally get this drink cooking, they all hallucinate, freak-out, and futz around and that too just feels annoying. So everything in this movie that Silva thinks is a laugh riot, is actually just really irritating.
There is something for the communal aspect of drug taking—the sharing of fears and past tragedies—but these darker tonal shifts don’t make for a better movie, just a bland one that ends depressingly.
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