Sundance '13: 'Crystal Fairy' Brings Laughs But Meanders Sloppily
by Ethan Anderton
January 18, 2013
It's no surprise that a movie easily described as Michael Cera hanging out with Chileans in their native country, a hippie girl and cooking a San Pedro cactus in order to trip off some homemade mescaline is here at Sundance. However, while Crystal Fairy and the Magical Cactus and 2012 certainly brings some solid laughs and shows a different side of Cera than we've seen in his mostly comedic run on the big screen, the trippy journey that might have had something significant to say loses itself in the drug high that the first two acts of the film leads up to so promisingly and then fumbles abruptly. The result is a meandering mess of self-discovery that just might have been better off lost in the desert with the rest of the San Pedro cacti.
The film from Chilean director Sebastian Silva (La Nana, or The Maid) follows Michael Cera as Jamie, a high strung pseudo intellectual twentysomething who has a penchant for enjoying drugs. After his drug and alcohol induced state causes him to nonchalantly invite the seemingly free-spirited, unique and au naturale girl who calls herself Crystal Fairy (Gaby Hoffman from Uncle Buck) on a road trip with some of his Chilean friends, he realizes that the extra company will turn this experience of the hallucinogenic mescaline extracted from the San Pedro cactus from a potential life milestone, to an adventure from hell.
Cera's character isn't likeable in the least, but that's not to the detriment of the film. In fact, his overbearing, intrusive, hyper sort of personality allows for plenty of hearty laughs for most of the film. This character only gets more entertaining as he gets more desperate to obtain the cactus they need while clashing with the flower child of a girl known as Crystal Fairy. Scenes with Hoffman and Cera surrounded by the amateur Chilean actors Juan Andrés Silva, José Miguel Silva, Agustín Silva (all brothers of the director) have a mumblecore flare, but after the drug trip dies down, the film loses focus, and never really recovers.
Based on a real-life experience that Sebastian Silva had ten years ago, this odyssey sputters out as a surprising revelation (which comes a little too late) doesn't earn the reaction it wants to illicit from audiences. Despite the best efforts of Gaby Hoffman, who is truly a tour de force and easily the best part of the film, her character feels like nothing more than a cliche by the end, joining many other such elements in what I realized seemed to be a game of Sundance bingo, fitting in all the traditional elements of indie movies into one disappointing package. It's no surprise that the film was shot in only 12 days.
What's upsetting, is that the first two acts seem to be striving for a significant but subtle message about how women are perceived, and how men think they should look and behave. As Hoffman walks around a hostel room nude and with hair aplenty in more intimate areas of her body, the discomfort the characters feel is met with laughter by the audience, who may be just as comfortable. However, this idea gets lost in the shuffle as the journey continues, and my interest and praise for the film along with it. In the end, Crystal Fairy and the Magical Cactus and 2012 has an interesting opening title sequence, a good amount of laughter, but a story that never quite comes together as complete.
Ethan's Sundance Rating: 5.5 out of 10