Crystal Fairy & The Magical Cactus and 2012

August 4, 2013 at 6:33 pm | Posted in 2013 | Leave a comment
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There are multiple versions of this movie’s name but the name, exactly as listed above, was the one given during the title sequence, so that’s what I am going with.  That’s not the only strangely inconsistent aspect of this film.  It follows Jamie (Michael Cera), an insufferable American tourist, as he wrangles his three long suffering local friends (brothers Juan Andrés, José MIguel and Augustín Silva) on a journey across Chile in search of a San Pedro cactus and its hallucinogenic properties.  Along the way, Jamie impulsively invites along equally insufferable, free-spirited Crystal Fairy (Gaby Hoffman) and then immediately regrets his decision.  Jamie & Crystal Fairy are both painfully insecure but express those insecurities in diametrically different ways.  Both Cera and Hoffman (who you might know as a child in films Like “Field of Dreams,” “Uncle Buck,” and “Sleepless in Seattle) play their characters without a shred of self-consciousness; they are merciless in portraying the hypocrisies and insecurities, partly because you can sense the underlying empathy they have for the people they are portraying.  Cera, in particular, is saddled with playing a cruel, controlling, and anxious man-child.  He is tough to watch for much of the film. Fortunately for the audience, we have the open-hearted Silva brothers to ground us.  Without them to connect to, this would have been a difficult ride.  Written and directed by their fourth brother, Sebastían Silva (best know for his wonderful film, “The Maid”), the story is funny often enough but never outright hilarious.  It does better at being touching, particularly toward the end, and does manage to help us connect with two pretty disconnected characters.  In fact, the penultimate scene around a campfire was wonderful.  In particular, I was pleased that all of the characters’ reactions to what was being said felt real to who they were.  I have often wondered if Michael Cera could ever succeed in a truly dramatic role.  Perhaps, he has his doubts too, because he has built quite a career out of playing every type of comedic character he can.  Here, he comes a close to drama as I have seen him and I think he pulls it off.  This was not as powerful a film as “The Maid” and really struggled with its momentum in parts.  Silva, who has real potential as a director, was also guilty of some odd choices in editing, music, etc. that were, at times, completely inconsistent with the tone of the film.  It felt as though he was just trying some things for the fun of it.  The movie certainly had its moments, just not quite enough to highly recommend it.

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