Monday, December 23, 2013

Movie Review: Crystal Fairy & the Magical Cactus and 2012

Crystal Fairy & the Magical Cactus and 2012
Directed by: Sebastián Silva.   
Written by: Sebastián Silva.
Starring: Michael Cera (Jamie), Gaby Hoffmann (Crystal Fairy), Juan Andrés Silva (Champa), Agustín Silva (Pilo), José Miguel Silva (Lel), Sebastián Silva (Lobo).

I often wondered what Michael Cera was going to do once people grew weary of his stuttering, stammering nice guy routine. It’s a comic persona that Cera perfected early in Arrested Development, and continued to great effect in movies like Superbad, Juno and Scott Pilgrim vs. the World. But would it be enough to build an entire career around? Not likely. But two 2013 films shows that Cera may be best to go in the completely opposite direction – and play assholes. His cameo at the beginning of This is the End had him playing himself, as a drug taking, drunken, horny asshole – and it worked because that is the last thing we expect Cera to be. In the awkwardly titled Crystal Fair & the Magical Cactus and 2012, Cera starts off much like he does in this is the end – at a house party, taking drugs, and being an idiot. The difference is the performance doesn’t stop there – he just keeps going, and for a long time he keeps becoming more and more of an asshole – until inevitably, he learns something. It’s a wonderful performance – too bad the movie itself is a meandering mess.

The film feels like it was thrown together and shot on the fly, because in essence it was. Cera was down in Chile to make Magic Magic with director Sebastian Silva, when that film ran into some last minute money problems (they eventually got worked out – and that film has been released, although apparently it isn’t very good) so the pair decided to make this film while waiting for that film to restart. It stars Cera as Jamie, an American tourist in Chile who is the prototypical ugly American – he’s there basically to do a lot of drugs, and he has pretty much zero respect for the people and places in Chile he says he loves so much. His ultimate mission is to find the San Pedro cactus, a hallucinogenic cactus, and take it with his “friends” – a trio of Chilean brothers – on the beach. At that house party that begins the movie, he meets another American – who calls herself Crystal Fairy (Gaby Hoffman) – and invites her along on the trip. The next day when she calls him, he’s mystified – but they stop and pick her up anyway. After protracted negotiations with the locals go nowhere, Jamie gets his hands on some of the cactus, and they head to the beach.

Jamie and Crystal Fairy are a study in contrasts. She’s an easy going, come what may hippie type, who goes on about the poisons the others are putting in their bodies, does yoga on the beach, and walks around naked. He’s a control freak, who needs everything pre-planned in order to have any fun – which he really isn’t having at all. The message, if there is one, is that all Jamie needs to do is loosen up and relax.

The movie doesn’t really go anywhere. That’s by design more than anything else. It’s a simple story – boys and girl want to take hallucinogenic cactus, boys and girl do hallucinogenic cactus and have a profound experience, the end. All this may have worked had some of what the characters were saying was interesting, but it really wasn’t. If you want to have the experience of being of spending a drug fueled day at the beach, than the film is for you. If not, you may end up admiring the performances by Cera and Hoffman – but ultimately being bored by the movie – which is what happened with me.

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