Crystal Fairy Reviews
A young USAer (Michael Cera) is in Chile hanging with some local friends. He wants to go on a mission up north to find a San Pedro cactus which has psychedelic, mind altering, properties and take it on the beach with his friends. They go to a party and he meets another Yank who calls herself Crystal Fairy (played by Gaby Hoffman). She is a type of hippy abroad, very "spiritual" and sort of sentimental.
So in the momentary impulse of fellow yanks abroad, and a nose full of coke, the Cera character invites her on the cactus trip but forgets about it the next day. Turns out she ends up joining them on the trip and butts heads with the very irritating guy that Cera plays, really well by the way. He is just a jerk. He has a sort of pushy, impatient,USA American go-getter personality in addition to being a psychedelic tourist. While Crystal is all airy fairy and wanting to ritualize everything in the spirit of togetherness.
The brothers they go on this road trip with are Sebastián Silva and his actual brothers. They are at times amused and appalled at the northerners and their behavior.
Sebastián Silva's approach in very interesting in writing and directing plus casting himself in this secondary role.
In a way, with the quirks of the Yanks, I wondered if there was more of an intention to ridicule the USA attitudes. I mean the examples here are either the trust fund baby CEO type, represented by Cara, and the very sweet sentimental end of us, yet damaged, represented in the Hoffmann character. And perhaps, more directly, a comment upon the growing movement of psychedelic tourism to South America.
I think this is a very fine movie of a sort a lot of people wouldn't particularly like. Bad IMDb reviews, etc. it's not a mainstream type movie.
Cera is very good is expressing discomfort at the outset of his trip. Seemed authentic to me.
I'm hoping more people will now see the movie because of the presence of Gaby Hoffmann. She is a wonderful and unusual actor whose star is on the rise because of Transparent and I guess she is also on Girls.
First off, this is the kind of movie that I love just because every performance feels so natural and great, sort of mumblecore-y. Michael Cera is fantastically unlikable, to the point that I was almost afraid that I'd have to sit through that for the whole movie. Luckily, he gets better, but even if he sustained his terribleness throughout, I think I'd still really like him, because he's terrible in such a unique way. He's extremely enthusiastic and passionate about some things, entertaining the prostitutes at the beginning and 'rescuing' Crystal Fairy from the dance floor, but he's so weirdly insistent and some things, like finding the cactus, and he creates so many awkward situations for himself because he's such a dick, in kind of a Michael Scott-ish way. But Cera has these facial expressions that just kill me, and he's fascinating throughout.
Then there's Gaby Hoffmann, excellent as Crystal Fairy. She overcomes those MPDG traits because 1. she never shares a romantic connection with any of the guys, 2. she doesn't specifically exist to change the protagonist, even if much of Jamie's arc hinges on her, 3. there's a sort of reason to her crazy behavior, a method to her madness (I'll discuss more later), and 4. she has tons of little lines or acts that show that she's her own person. I love how she sort of expresses her annoyance for Jamie in good-natured ways, playfully teasing him about his behavior and laughing as she says "this boy is driving me loco!" She has a personality, even if her general wackiness is pretty broad.
Jamie and Crystal Fairy are the most important characters, but Juan Andres, Agustin, and Jose Miguel Silva deserve a lot of recognition, and they're one of the main reasons I love the movie. They're great straight men to the craziness of the two leads, to begin with, but more importantly, their performances are so naturalistic and great. Each of the characters feel so deeply familiar and real in a way you don't often see in Hollywood movies. There's Lel's vague confusion whenever English goes untranslated ("what the fuck is she saying?" he asks his brother after she tells her fear). There's all of Pilo's expressions, which are all just great, like his laughter when Jamie calls her 'Crystal Hairy' and his look of deep concentration and interest when he talks to the scientists towards the end. And Champa is just a good guy, telling Jamie when he's being an asshole and being kinder to Crystal than Jamie expects him to. When you watch movies like this, you realize that in most big movies, every single character expression and reaction has a specific purpose; everything is so calculated to convey a simplistic emotion or serve as a punchline. Movies like this (or Happy Christmas, or Before Sunrise, etc.) show that in reality, expressions and reactions are much different. Not everything has a specific purpose. I'm not explaining this very well, but maybe the word I'm looking for is 'rhythm.' In most big movies, each scene has kind of a predictable feel to it. That's not a bad thing, it's just the overall pace is one you would expect. Something about movies like this, though defy simple categorization or rhythm, though, and I can't tell exactly what it is; it could be Silva's camera movements, or the way he chooses to frame unexpected subjects, or the lack of constant music in the background, or the length of the scenes, or the characters talking over each other, or, as I said, the Silva brothers' great performances.
Let's get the only real mistake of the movie out of the way: Crystal's third-act confession around the bonfire that she was raped. This is kind of unfortunate, because it's maudlin in a way that the rest of the movie wasn't at all, and because it provides too simple of an explanation for Crystal's personality. As she started her story, I immediately knew what it was going to be, and I kind of dreaded it. The whole thing just seemed a little unnecessary, and I didn't feel completely happy with it like I did with the rest of the movie. That said, because of that naturalistic feel that the movie has, because of the performances and direction, the scene went pretty much as well as it could've gone. Hoffmann's performance was great, and I liked her character so much that I felt emotion during the scene despite my problems with it. Really, what makes the scene, though, are the other characters' reactions. I love Champa's look of stunned concern, and Pilo's deep frowning. And, of course, there's the great finish: Jamie starts crying himself. First of all, that's unexpectedly touching. Second of all, there's a great line when Champa says, "this is her time, man. Stop taking her time" or whatever. It's hilarious, and the perfect line for the moment, teasing Jamie's usual attention-hogging and adding a dose of levity to the dark moment. So overall, though I didn't like the choice to give Crystal a rape storyline, it was pulled off really well, so I can't complain too much.
That's pretty much it, but I wanted to end by saying that I just really liked Jamie's simple arc. I like that he's so insistent on staying true to his plans, and he's probably a little jealous of Crystal, but she shows him that he needs to just chill out and enjoy himself. And he's a dick to her for so much of the movie that when he does act kind to her, it's really touching; I love that moment when he tells her he was worried about her and she says, "you were?" and they hug. I wanted to keep hanging out with these characters for longer.