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Crystal Fairy

Crystal Fairy

Michael Cera and Sebastián Silva team up for a quietly quirky road movie

Tripping with the enemy: Gaby Hoffmann gets under the skin of an irritable Michael Cera in 'Crystal Fairy'

Crystal Fairy (or to give it its full, original name Crystal Fairy & the Magical Cactus and 2012) is an endearing curio from odd-couple director and star Sebastián Silva and Michael Cera, who have teamed up for a double-bill of projects: the other one is the psychological thriller Magic Magic, currently scheduled for an April release. Silva describes Crystal Fairy as being about "the birth of compassion in someone's life"; it's a comedic drama, improvised by its cast and buoyed by character-sensitive direction and a pair of perfectly pitched, often squirm-inducing, performances.

Silva is probably best known for 2009's The Maid, which delighted in the underdog antics of the long-serving and embittered domestic servant Raquel. Crystal Fairy, based on a real experience, also foregrounds a non-conformist female - the titular free-spirit (Gaby Hoffmann) - who butts heads with the irritable Jamie (Cera) on a voyage of narcotic discovery. The two Americans meet at a party in Chile where Jamie, high on cocaine and weed, invites Crystal Fairy to join himself and his Chilean friends on a quest to consume the juice of the San Pedro cactus, a notorious hallucinogen. Their companions Champa, Pilo and Lel are played by the director's brothers (Juan Andrés, Agustín and José Miguel respectively, all pictured below with Cera).

Underplayed in every respect, Crystal Fairy unfolds naturally, without crude musical accompaniments, or the signposting of comedy. There's bickering, hapless antics, drug-taking and even mention of an orgy (though as Crystal Fairy says, these boys aren't ready for that yet) but, if it sounds like frat-boy movie material, it actually couldn't be more dissimilar to Road Trip et al in execution. Silva instead makes a focus of the fluctuations in the group's dynamic after the introduction of an unknown quantity. The chilled, gentlemanly brothers are largely unfazed by the addition of Crystal Fairy, in contrast to the uptight Jamie - a purveyor of aggressively organised fun - who seems uniquely ill-suited to drug-taking despite his seemingly insatiable appetite and who, despite being the one who invited her, is irked by the sudden presence of this genuine free-spirit.

it finds personal growth in the throes of inebriation and humanity in calamity

Silva's fourth film was made using just a detailed outline of events, with dialogue agreed on before each scene was shot. The cast filmed it while effectively on vacation and their good time off-screen bled into their work onscreen, with the actors genuinely getting high for the pivotal drug-taking sequence. The film's naturalism suits Cera's performance style and though he employs the (seemingly effortless) deadpan delivery we've seen from him in Arrested Development, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, Superbad, Juno etc., this is a less pleasant Cera than we're familiar with. And in Magic Magic prepare for him to get a whole lot nastier! As his undeserving adversary, Gaby Hoffmann is fearless and believable in a performance that requires her to be unselfconsciously naked and, for a woman, fairly hirsute. She's cruelly dubbed "Hairy Fairy" by the boys, though she sportingly embraces this.

Crystal Fairy is gently amusing rather than hilariously funny and far from oblivious to the perils and consequences of its characters’ actions, albeit without drilling them home. One standout moment lingers movingly on the reaction of a woman who has been hurt by the group's hedonistic exploits, a fact to which they remain entirely oblivious, while another acts as an alarming reality check - highlighting Crystal Fairy's vulnerability when, naked and high in the desert, she's approached by a strange car. In the end it's a pleasingly subversive effort which finds personal growth in the throes of inebriation and humanity in calamity.

Follow @EmmaSimmonds on Twitter

Overleaf: watch the trailer for Crystal Fairy


Silva makes a focus of the fluctuations in the group's dynamic after the introduction of an unknown quantity


Editor Rating: 
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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