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|Index||30 reviews in total|
Hiding behind masks that cover their vulnerability, two Americans in
Chile, Jamie (Michael Cera) and Crystal Fairy, a young free-spirited
woman (Gaby Hoffmann), spar off against each other in Chilean filmmaker
Sebastián Silva's psychedelic comedy Crystal Fairy. The film was
nominated for the Grand Jury Prize and won the Directing Award for
World Cinema at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival. Jamie's act is one of
controlling, overly-aggressive behavior but not quite the "Ugly
American," while Crystal's is the opposite but equally phony, a
caricature of a "hippie" filled with love for everyone who spouts
clichés about chakras and mother earth, walks around her hotel room
naked, engages in healing rituals, and chides the others for eating
It's hard to tell if the director is using her persona as a means of ridiculing these ideas or just showing how inauthentic she is. In any event, Crystal and Jamie's way of being, while it fills a need for them, has costs in sacrificing who they really are. On the surface, the film is a road trip to find a psychedelic substance in the San Pedro cactus plant which, when boiled for twelve hours and ingested, has the properties of mescaline (it has been said that the actors used mescaline while shooting the film). In essence, however, the film is not really about mescaline but about releasing rigid patterns of behavior and discovering new ways of interacting that are more fulfilling.
The film begins at a party where Silva's hand-held camera-work and improvised conversation is established. On a cocaine high, the caustic Jamie invites a partygoer, a girl who calls herself Crystal Fairy to accompany him and his friends on a quest to repeat the spiritual high described in Aldous Huxley's book The Doors of Perception. When Crystal takes him up on the offer the next day (which he has forgotten that he even made), he is dismayed by her annoying behavior, even though his Chilean friends, Champa (Juan Andres Silva) and his two brothers Lel (Jose Miguel Silva) and Pilo (Augustin Silva), seem more tolerant, perhaps because at least one does not understand English. Their trip to the ocean to locate and purchase a piece of the San Pedro cactus from reluctant residents is one of the comic highlights of the film, even though Jamie has to eventually use surreptitious means to acquire it.
Crystal Fairy ends up in a good place even though it is more than a little irritating in getting there. During the trip, Jamie and Crystal talk to each other, but at cross purposes. The results are unpredictable but, suffice it to say, their longing for a spiritual experience does not take the form that Huxley described. Michael Cera's role is out of character from the lovable, nerdy self he has played in earlier movies, but he is terrific in this film, totally natural and very real, as is Hoffmann in her role, both continuing to reveal a new dimension to their character. Ultimately, the group's sharing about their fears and their discovery of how their act no longer serves their purpose in life is more open and honest than anything I've seen in films recently and stays in the memory.
A hit at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival, Crystal Fairy stars Michael
Cera (Scott Pilgrim vs. the World) as an uptight American
drug-partaking lout backpacking parts of Chile with three friends (whom
are native Chileans) in search of a rare cactus -- the San Pedro -- in
hopes of experiencing its hallucinogenic effects on a northern beach.
At a random party before their trek is set to begin, a coked-out Jamie (Cera) spontaneously invites another American party-er to partake with them. She (Gaby Hoffman - remember the little girl from Field of Dreams and Sleepless in Seattle?) is a hairy (uh ... yep) free-spirit who channels the vibes of nature and goes by the name Crystal Fairy.
After their trip begins (it is a few hundred miles of a drive from the city to the beach), Jamie and Crystal discover that they have conflicting personalities and they clash many times before their group even comes across the cactus to imbibe as he is boorish and insensitive and she is unique and a deep-thinker. Jamie becomes increasingly annoyed with Crystal while his three Chilean friends tolerate her much better and actually respect her point of view and sensibility. Jamie is oftentimes unaware of his rude-ness but he is written well and believably portrays an American tourist expecting concessions and advantages. When they actually find a cactus (one she has spotted), Jamie and Crystal Fairy even disagree as to how to obtain it because Jamie likes things being his way and he is a stressful worry-wart.
While this portion of the journey is complicated, the real "adventure" begins on the beach when they make their drinkable concoction. The film becomes one about personal and inner understanding, acceptance and compassion. The first half comes across as rather annoying as Jamie's character is very self-centered and not too-likable and while I believed the drug-induced portion of the film would be the hardest part to endure ... I was wrong as this is when the true characters of each are actually revealed.
As for the film's acting: Cera fans know what to expect from him and he plays another slight variation of manic that he's shown audiences before. His character is high-strung and abrasive and some might want to reach through their screens and punch him a time or two; but this is a testament to Cera's acting talent. He plays his character very well. Hoffman hasn't been on many movie screens lately and it is nice seeing her play the titular (ahem) character. She bares more than just her soul in a few scenes ... and her final admission around a late-night campfire is moving and emotional. Welcome back to the big screen Gaby! This is a good little, independent film ... but it isn't one for everybody. It takes some patience and those who dislike grainy picture and plot-lite story lines won't appreciate or enjoy this. It is only those patient enough to make it to the end of this film and willing to take the entire trip who will be rewarded with the film's high.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
"Crystal Fairy" is a road trip taken by two of the ugliest Americans to
ever trod a cinematic foreign country. Their goal: Mescaline and
spiritual discovery or closer to the truth, themselves.
Comedy star Michael Cera, Jamie, showcases trademark Allenesque neuroses, whining and flat affect in a role based on the experiences of Director Sebastián Silva. The reversal is Silva was a native while Cera is an interloper of whom it is asked, "Did you travel to (beautiful) Chile just for the San Pedro (the cactus harvested for Mescaline)?" The answer is a resounding yes, and there is nothing he won't do to get it, including stealing cactus from a lonely, mentally challenged woman.
Gaby Hoffman, Crystal Fairy, is a pontificating Sixties throwback who wanders about in the nude and chastises people about their food choices (while drinking Coke). She's also an unwanted (by Cera) barnacle clinging to the trip which includes three native brothers. (The scenes of the brothers trying to look like they're not gawking at the nude Hoffman in a hotel room are hilarious.)
Cera's performance is admirable but his usual one-note. Hoffman easily outshines him.
The improvised dialogue adds immediacy and verisimilitude while masking the bitter subtext; Neo-Colonialism and Financial Imperialism. Like "Tony Manero" (a film crediting thanks to Silva), United States' influence and interference lightly greases this story's wheels.
Unlike "Tony Manero," "Crystal Fairy" adds character arcs: Cera departs his obnoxious head to find self-acceptance and a heart recognizing Fairy's inner beauty; Fairy discovers her healing powers cannot reanimate a dead animal and the world just might not end in 2012. She also finds acceptance of the sexual abuse leading her to a life as a strap-on wearing Dominatrix.
The Chilean brothers are antithetical to the Gringos. Their portrayals are a given as they're natives of the country of the film's origin, but their counterpoint makes Cera and Hoffman all the more ridiculous.
To say "Crystal Fairy" is a comedy (stoner or otherwise), twisted love story or angry gringo-invective is to sell the film short. This is a sweet, abstract film with multiple layers and a few very fine moments. The film plants itself in the psyche much like Mescaline. Giving in to the film's charms results in a feeling you actually tripped along.
Multiple viewings may help in understanding off-the-cuff lines delivered sotto voce. And the abrupt, unsatisfying ending is a shortcoming. There is a movement to cut to black and end films with ambiguity. To feed post-viewing conversation and debate? Whether lazy, uninspired, unmotivated or ill-advised, an ambiguous ending cheats the audience. ("The Birds" notwithstanding.)
A welcome respite to noisy, tent-pole, superhero entertainment, joining this troupe on the road is definitely worth the ninety minute trip straight or high.
I am late seeing this flick and I must disagree with a few other
reviewers and their take on this very simple yet complex movie.
Once again Sebastián Silva is offering up questions on youth and how youth sees the world around them. Jamie is obviously a self centered person with a limited experience in communicating with others (sort of like the US) (as Jamie is an American) and we can see this in his 'attitude' throughout the story. The other three boys have had to share with others and they try to make the best of their trip to the beach. Jamie, on the other hand insist they do it as planed.
Enter Crystal Fairy into this mix and you already have an altered perception of exactly what they want to do - she is like the drug reduced from the cactus later in the story (she has an altered view of reality). She wants to share everything the three other boys don't seem to mind. Jamie can't tolerate it - he wants none of her.
Crystal mothers them, she wants to know them, the boys are like children to her - yet she is very childlike herself. Jamie suddenly wants to be friends with her but only when he's 'high', after he comes down he's back to his original self. Crystal leaves quietly, Jamie sees her leave and calls her name, Crystal disappears behind a rock.
What is Silva showing us here? Crystal is the personality of many different people, she's giving, caring, willing to accept life on her own and take risks - and being alone isn't easy, she is alone throughout the movie and Jamie thinks she's a phony. Jamie cannot see that he is the phony because in the end Crystal is what Jamie was seeking in the brewed Cactus they drink and even when high he could not accept it.
This is my opinion. I think this movie is incredibly deep but in a
light kind of way, in a way that the viewer learns from it what applies
and relevant for him. I think it's honest, a rare thing in movies these
days. No clichés, no bullshit. I think it makes you think, makes you
feel. It makes you connect with the characters, almost as if you are
traveling with them. And what I liked most about this movie is the
"twist", when who you think is the main character turns out to be just
the scenery for the real deal.
I recommend this a lot to people who are done with the Hollywood industry, who are looking for something real and worth watching, and especially to people who are about to travel, especially to travel alone. I think in some way you will learn a lot.
Michael Cera is Jamie, an American traveler in Chile who plans a road
trip with his friends to indulge in a legendary hallucinogen, the San
Pedro cactus. While drunk at a party, Jamie invites an eccentric,
radical spirit named Crystal Fairy, played by Gaby Hoffmann. When
Jamie's insensitive, controlling, impatient, selfish nature is revealed
it conflicts with Crystal Fairy, making what was suppose to be a
care-free adventure into an uncomfortable journey for everyone.
Michael Cera and Gaby Hoffmann are both very brave for taking on these characters, who are in perfect contrast with one another. The result is excellent performances of well-written characters. Unfortunately the film is going to attract audiences looking for a drug-fueled adventure in the vein of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, not a character-driven comedy lacking any real laugh-out-loud moments. The film is played almost too serious to be any fun, though there is depth.
Writer/director Sebastián Silva proved his powers as a serious filmmaker with Magic Magic, which also starred Cera and was released earlier this year. Other than having Cera in lead roles, the only thing the two films share in common is an abrupt ending that will either leave you haunted or irritated. While Magic Magic is an effective psychological horror film, Crystal Fairy is a thought-provoking character study poorly marketed as an adventure comedy.
Crystal Fairy and The Magical Cactus isn't a bad film but it does fail as a comedy. As for the adventure, the credits begin to roll too soon after the film gets interesting. This will annoy more than it will amuse or enlighten.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
You most likely don't know this, but in Canada we can just walk into a store, and buy the cactus already dried, and ready to use, and it costs very little. These characters are mostly jerks, and for the most part it is really hard to root for them on this quest, even if I have been on several similar. This movie has no magic, but there is a long drive, and a lot talking and trying to get high. Michael Cera's Jamie is a winy troubled little jerk, and Gaby Hoffmann as the Chrystal Fairy herself is just a complete flake, but that is what they are supposed to be so as far as the acting in this movie it is all really good, it is just hard to watch good acting no matter how good when you are watching such unacceptable people. I really did not Enjoy this movie, there are parts that deserve praise, but it was just such torture watching these characters that I do not recommend this unless you just love art films, and have your own Cactus questing memories you want to relive.
Michael Cera goes a long way toward changing his lovable doofus image
in this road trip movie with a laid back and ultimately rather sweet
Cera plays an obnoxious American vacationing in Chile who's trying to chase down a special kind of cactus that has mind-altering capabilities when the juice is distilled and drunk. Along for the ride are three native Chilean brothers and another American, a hippie-dippie girl named Crystal Fairy. The Chileans are quiet, polite and tolerant while the Americans are both unpleasant, Cera because he's a jerk and Crystal Fairy because she tries too hard. If this had stayed yet another Americans-behaving-badly movie I wouldn't have liked it. But it goes a very different, and welcome, direction, as the group's time together causes defenses to be relaxed and vulnerabilities to emerge.
"Crystal Fairy" does a great job of capturing that unique dynamic that evolves when a random assortment of people spend a lot of time together on a road trip. The characters created by Cera and Gaby Hoffman (who plays Crystal Fairy) certainly aren't pleasant to spend time with for much of the film's running time, but they're so like people I've actually known that it's fascinating to watch their performances and how thoroughly they can create characters that feel so authentic.
I was already won over by the film's casual, relaxed atmosphere by the time the last few scenes came around, and then, after a late-act revelation and the sensitive way in which the film handles it, decided that I had sort of fallen in love with it.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Sebastian Silva in my opinion did very well when making this movie. It has a very good indie atmosphere and is very realistic when it comes to dialogue. I love the fact that basically all of the movie is shot hand-held too, it also brings a very realistic atmosphere to the movie. Acting wise I thought it was very brave, Michael Cera stepped out of his comfort zone and played an obnoxious and ignorant character and some of the other actors did some extremely unsettling scenes during the movie which in my opinion definitely took courage. It was also well paced, I didn't feel at any point during the movie like leaving or skipping any parts and even though in my opinion the actual magical cactus part should've been earlier I thought it held up the suspense. One of the only things I disliked about the movie was the sudden out of the blue jump-scare early in the movie, I felt it was unnecessary and annoying, apart from the that I throughly enjoyed the movie and recommend it to anybody, stoners and or indie movie lovers. So because of all this I rate this movie 8 out of 10. Well done Sebastian Silva and to all the actors in the film.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I liked the idea of this film. It sounded cool and fun. Something I
might have liked to have done years ago (and maybe part of me still
I'm not going to comment on the acting or cinematography - it was all good from my humble perspective. Certainly the characters were believable and realistic.
This film is about the characters. However the story that holds the film together is, as you will know, about a young American male (named Jamie) who is in Chile - most likely, based on his persona in the film, with a primary aim of sampling the San Pedro cactus and the hallucinogenic substance mescaline which it contains. He appears to have a friend who is from the area, who is his link to the country, as he speaks no Spanish himself. We are not sure if he is visiting his friend, or if he is living or studying in the country. Either way, he goes off on his spiritual quest with his friend, his friend's 2 brothers and a girl whom he spontaneously invited while high at a party.
The main character is incredibly insensitive throughout. At the start of the movie, it seems that he regretted inviting the girl when setting off with his friends, and rather callously states that they can just leave her behind if she starts to annoy them.
As they progress on their journey in travelling to a town to get the cactus, moving on to their chosen spot to prepare and imbibe the cactus, experience the effects of it and come down again, their characters are explored. From the start, the main character made me cringe. I think it might be because I could see some aspects of myself from the past in him, which I did not like. He was quite insensitive with a somewhat superior attitude towards others, and was more interested in pursuing with his goal rather than getting to know people on the way. Actually he almost seemed desperate with his goal of taking mescaline. The irony is that he appears to have gained his knowledge (at least of mescaline) from reading Aldous Huxley's "The Doors of Perception" (a typical read for the Western teenage drug-user and bedroom philosopher).
In the movie he is driven by his desire to sample this cactus, and is quite insulting towards others on the way. A key scene to highlight this is when a lady invites them into her home to see if she wants to give them some of her cactus, and the main character (Jamie) sneaks into her garden, cuts off a portion of the cactus, puts it in their car and then returns, telling his friends it's time to go. Although his friends appeared to laugh when they saw the cactus in the back of the car and perhaps appreciated his initiative, it probably added to their feeling of him being an "asshole", which they only call him when he is rude towards their female travelling companion, Crystal Fairy.
The actual drug-taking sequence is interesting from a preparation point of view. In terms of the drug effects, when Jamie begins to appear to experience heightened levels of anxiety and paranoia, there is a feeling of him deserving this and a hope that perhaps the experience will teach the viewer why he is the way he is, and that it will make him a better person. This doesn't really happen however.
A key difference between Jamie and the Crystal Fairy is her new age/spiritual attitude versus his perhaps more typical attitude of a well-off white rather naive indelicate Western male. I disagree with the previous reviewer who stated that they were both equally phony, with Crystal Fairy spouting clichés and being a caricature of a hippy. As least she is following a path in life that she seems to believe in, and seems friendly and respectful towards others. I agree that Jamie seems phony, though I don't think he is deliberately so. He is rather narrowed in his views and self-centred. His understanding of certain topics seems superficial and gleaned from books. He quickly stands out from his friends for being more forward, less relaxed and less "cool", and perhaps somewhat socially inept and missing the subtleties of communication.
Crystal Fairy, on the other hand, might be a little more deliberate in creating her hippie-esque persona. We only really see this at the end, when she informs the group as they are sitting round the campfire on their comedown, that she was raped whilst at a party some time in the past. She also adds that she is a dominatrix. This leaves the viewer wondering if these things are connected, and that perhaps her hippie portrayal is some kind of reaction against what happened.
Anyway, back to the title of my review. When the film was over, I kind of felt that I wasn't left satisfied by the film. The end is perhaps slightly squeezed in and anti-climatic. Sure, Jamie and Crystal Fairy kiss and make up - there's a surprise - could see that coming a mile off. There wasn't a huge focus on the drug experience itself - the viewer simply follows them from the outside. I suppose I was disappointed that the characters weren't changed in a more significant way than they were - or, more specifically, Jamie. His brief moment of enlightenment where he apologises to Crystal Fairy and then cries after her sorry story seems rather superficial and short- lived. This point is driven home by one of the closing line of the movie, spoken by Jamie - "she didn't see any faces in the mountain". This appeared to be spoken with some deeper meaning, though I struggle to see what it is. Perhaps someone else can enlighten me.
Watch the film.
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