Crystal Fairy & the Magical Cactus
Directed by Sebastián Silva
Jamie is a boorish, insensitive American twentysomething traveling in Chile, who somehow manages to create chaos at every turn. He and his friends are planning on taking a road trip north to experience a legendary shamanistic hallucinogen called the San Pedro cactus. In a fit of drunkenness at a wild party, Jamie invites an eccentric woman—a radical spirit named Crystal Fairy—to come along.
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★★★½ review by Hollie Horror on Letterboxd
Last night while I was watching Crystal Fairy I kept thinking, "wow, Michael Cera's character of Jamie reminds me a LOT of some people I once knew.." but, after sleeping on it, the familiarity in his jerk-like behavior is not a reflection of some of my old friends, it's a pretty accurate depiction of me in my early 20s.
I was incredibly impatient, especially if it meant hallucinating any time soon. I still have a low tolerance for people I find annoying though, that isn't something you really grow out of, I don't think.
If you go into Crystal Fairy & the Magical Cactus hoping for a typical stoner comedy, you will be disappointed (or for some, pleasantly surprised) as the movie is rather slow and paced, not negatively but in a moderated way (which is almost in defiance to some of the characters).
I would advise you that this isn't another "Michael Cera film where Michael Cera is Michael Cera" but that's not true, he is still his quirky, awkward self and I don't know if it's possible for him to ever be directed into a character which is not himself, but this isn't construed as negative for everyone, I find him rather amusing. Some actors are not character actors, because their own personality is character enough.
★★★½ review by TajLV on Letterboxd
Film #1 of 30 in my March Around The World | 2015 Challenge
I decided to kick off this challenge with a film from the featured country, Chile, written and directed by Sebastian Silva. He won the Sundance Film Festival's Directing Award for this production, which also features his sons playing three brothers: Juan Andrés as the experienced elder Champa, Agustín as the guitar-playing young one Pilo and José Miguel as the English-challenged middle sibling Lel.
The main character in the story, however, is a self-absorbed American jerk named Jamie (Michael Cera), who has come to Chile to hang out, party and get high. He speaks very little Spanish, but lives with his friend Champa who serves as an interpreter and guide to the local drug scene. Jamie is high at a party in Santiago when he meets free-spirited fellow American Crystal Fairy (Gaby Hoffman), and he jokingly invites her to join in an expedition to find the mescaline-bearing San Pedro cactus. Much to his chagrin, she decides to go along with him, Champa and the two brothers on the road trip, even though her trippy personality can be so annoying that Jamie wants to ditch her.
Without giving any spoilers away, the traveling quintet eventually does score the elusive peyote, and they ingest it while camping out on a beautiful, isolated Chilean beach. The bad vibes between Jamie and Crystal Fairy reach a crescendo there, which will require some self discovery and intimate revelations to find resolution.
Silva has said that the female character was based on a real person he encountered, and the story is meant to show "the birth of compassion in someone's life." Both Jamie and Crystal Fairy go through changes, and we gradually get to know them beyond their façades. The three brothers are primarily fun-loving foils for the two leads, but they bring balance to the road trip, which would otherwise be dominated by Jamie's obsession with doing things his way.
I should note that Hoffman's performance earned her a Best Female Lead nomination from the Independent Spirit Awards. To me, she was by far the best aspect of the film. Having seen Cera in "Juno," "Year One" and "This Is the End," I'm still not a fan of his acting.
★★★★ review by Andy Ferguson on Letterboxd
Sebastian Silva has done a much needed, fairly remarkable service for the career of Michael Cera: he's given him two consecutive roles to finally break the quirky actor out of the typecast characters that he has been stuck with for ages now.
In both Magic Magic, and now Crystal Fairy, Cera offers up new sides of his comedic persona, bringing forward notes of incredibly bizarre awkwardness unlike anything we've seen from him before. It is obvious that Silva pushes him to strive for new depths, and he achieves wildly enjoyable results in both of the writer/director's new films. It's hard to say which of the two performances I prefer over the other, so I'll go ahead and call it a fair wash. In Magic Magic he was strangely horrifying while always maintaining dark humor, and in Crystal Fairy he possesses a lot of the same qualities, but as a far different person.
Both of the films are set in vast landscapes of Silva's familiar Chilean territory, and each also feature only a handful of actors going a tad insane as they spend more and more time in the expansive nothingness. Where Magic Magic was the eerie, psychological mindfuck, Crystal Fairy is its comedic, drug-riddled companion. Make these two a double feature.
★★★★ review by eugenen on Letterboxd
Michael Cera plays a legendary self-absorbed asshole, but the biggest accomplishment of his performance – and of the movie – is the way that his character transforms, without moving a muscle, from almost unwatchably insufferable to uncomfortably recognizable. The key is the dawning realization of how genuinely important the hunt for the hallucinogenic cactus is to this guy – not as some sort of brass ring or poseurish hipster status symbol, but as an experience that he truly wants to have. And haven’t you ever unleashed your inner control freak – and risked looking ridiculous or mean – when faced with something risky and fragile that you really truly want and that well-intentioned others might jeopardize if you’re not vigilant? This unexpectedly warm, charitable film suggests that people’s annoying quirks and hang-ups often come from a fundamentally good place, and should be treated accordingly. It also pulls off the truly impressive feat of conveying an acid trip without the use of animation or lame visual effects. The ending is more cryptic than necessary, but that’s basically my only reservation here; rating might well go up on second viewing.
★★★★ review by robyn on Letterboxd
Michael Cera plays my absolute favourite performance I've seen of him in this, an insufferable middle class prick bothering the locals and killing everyone's fucking buzz. I relished in hating this, it's delicious.
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