5 Reasons To Love “Crystal Fairy & The Magical Cactus”
This 2012 Sundance prizewinner about an abrasive, self-absorbed American hipster (Canada’s awkward boy next door, Michael Cera) traveling to Chile, snorting piles of cocaine and partying recklessly in the hopes of finding a hallucinatory cactus with his buddy Champa (Juan Andrés Silva) is actually a hilarious, offbeat and astute road movie. Chilean director Sebastián Silva (The Maid) dreamed up this partly autobiographical film when another Michael Cera-starring project of his (Magic Magic, which recently screened at the Fantasia Festival) ran into production delays. Drawing on memories of a mescaline-enhanced trip to the desert with friends and a San Francisco hippy-dippy gypsy (portrayed by Gaby Hoffmann as Crystal Fairy), Silva crafts a loosely structured, captivating tale of five mismatched folks who set out on a one-of-a-kind bonding experience. But the magic brew they ingest communally is only part of the fun. Here are five reasons why Crystal Fairy & The Magical Cactus doesn’t disappoint.
1. Michael Cera continues to trash his “good guy” image in the grandest of ways
After shocking Juno tweens by playing a libidinous, coke-snorting version of himself in Seth Rogen’s apocalypse comedy This Is The End earlier this summer, Cera further spoils his awkwardly charismatic screen image by playing Jamie, an arrogant gringo-jerk who travels to Chile on a quest for self-actualization but who refuses to open up to the local culture (the language, the food, the people). Cera is so convincing as a neurotic, selfish anti-hero that you’ll actually forget you ever found his on-screen, affable guy shtick endearing.
2. This is an eminently entertaining road trip that never outstays its welcome
Unlike so many travelogue-type indie films that rely on the open road premise as a ponderous, film-school excuse for major potholes in the narrative, Crystal Fairy keeps moving right along, and to its credit, you never quite know where it’s headed. The characters’ quest to find the much-cherished San Pedro cactus and to indulge in a drug-induced euphoria on a secluded beach turns out to be the starting point to exploring the much more compelling dynamics at play within this strange hodgepodge of road trippers.
3. It mocks all those lame American clichés about “finding yourself” on a two-month backpacking trip to [insert non-Western destination here]
And it does so by fleshing out two main characters that fit that profile to a T – one is an arrogant pseudo-literary jerk, the other is a Queen-of-the-Bongo-type spiritual priestess. The only sane, level-headed characters here are the three Chilean brothers (played by Silva’s actual siblings) who put up with these two Yanks and their frankly ridiculous (though highly plausible) crazy streaks.
4. Gaby Hoffmann is fearless and unforgettable in the titular role
We were completely caught off guard by former child star Gaby Hoffmann (Now and Then) for her riveting performance in the indie family drama Burma at this year’s South By Southwest Festival. She outdoes that here, as a magical pebble-carrying, New Age-preaching, clothing-optional hippy who goes by the name Crystal Fairy. Beyond all of her predictable ramblings about healing ceremonies, chakras and the need to “cast aside our egos to reconcile with the divine,” Hoffmann shines in a meaty part that actually rises above all of those bohemian clichés and has us caring for the fairy.
5. Here’s a film whose entire premise revolves around an impending drug trip that you don’t need to be high as a kite to enjoy
The entire drug trip subgenre can usually be divided into two opposing camps: films you’re highly encouraged to enjoy under the influence (Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Easy Rider… heck, even Alice in Wonderland) and those – whether intentionally or not – that permanently scare many away from the dangers of illicit substances and altered states (Requiem for a Dream, Trainspotting, and of course, Reefer Madness!). You couldn’t box Crystal Fairy in either category, as it transcends the straight-laced drug trip storyline with fascinating digressions, character insights and revelations.
In theatres August 23 | Cinéma du Parc