Micheal Cera starring in two Sundance films by Chilean director Sebastian Silva strikes me as pretty random. It then makes perfect sense that Crystal Fairy is a film prone to random flights of fancy (Silva’s other film being Magic Magic which hasn’t shown as of this writing.) Crystal Fairy is about a road trip to a beach wherein a group of friends will take mescaline, and it doesn’t ever get much more complicated than that. What keeps the film exciting, aside from Cera’s performance that manages to make a loathsome character lovable, is Silva’s idiosyncratic tendencies to tease and shock the audience.
Director: Sebastián Silva
Release Date: January 18, 2013 (Sundance Film Festival)
Let’s pretend I managed to sum up the films of the Duplass brothers and Lynn Shelton into a catchy phrase that is not “mumblecore” and that Crystal Fairy is a much more vivid, colorful take on said phrase (or it’s mumblecore with day-glo colors instead of sepia tones — there I said it!) After appropriately psychedelic animated credits — that presents the film’s full title as “Crystal Fairy & The Magic Cactus & 2012” — the film abruptly opens with Jamie (Michael Cera) at a party. First comes cocaine then hookers, but somehow it all feels innocuous with Cera involved.
Not just Cera but also Silva’s script that manages to present cliches while finding the truth and humor in them along the way and the supporting cast of mostly Chilean actors that bring a relaxed tone to a trip that often pits Jamie’s manic eccentricities against them. I often got a sense that these Chilean dudes only stuck with him out of some sort of obligation that not even they understand, or maybe the novelty of having a white American friend is good enough. It’s just too bad that this White American friend is pushy, superficial, judgmental, and doesn’t know when enough cocaine is enough.
Cera, a master of mumble(core) unto himself, is the type of forever young actor that I can’t help but find endearing, regardless of role and circumstance. Even as a bossy burnout that says, without irony, he is entering a “mescaline stage of his life,” Cera remains as fresh faced, naive, and laugh-out-loud funny as he was in Arrested Development and Superbad. In many ways, this is his breakout role that proves he can do drama, except doing drama when you are Michael Cera just means doing a different type of comedy. His shifty eyes, stubble, and goofy mannerisms bring life to the character and film. His bizarre facial looks and muffled vocal delivery often makes me think, this is what Tim Heidecker would have been like ten years ago.
Cera and Silva are kindred spirits. The same creative spark that tells Cera to give that one random look is the very same spark that tells Silva to have Cera drink coffee in a desert while an orchestra swells up, heightening tensions for no apparent reason. It’s frivolous but these little touches throughout the film, that range from shocking to disturbing, give Crystal Fairy personality and surprise. Much of these elements come from the titular character that joins the group, an obnoxious, free-spirited girl that is a caricature for the group of friends to laugh at along with the audience — it’d be cruel if she weren’t such an easy target, talking about healing crystals and parading around nude (more than once). Though great comedic moments are had, having such an exaggerated, unlikable female in a car full of believable, likeable guys comes across as sexist, and an unearned final act that tries to give depth to this Crystal Fairy only makes things more uncomfortable.
It’s worth pointing out that this Crystal Fairy is a white American, like Jamie. He a stereotype of American excess. She a clueless optimist that thinks believing makes things real. Opposites attract and yadda yadda — that’s not really the interesting part of Crystal Fairy. In fact, it’s the worst part and it leads to an aimless third act and confusing finale. Crystal Fairy is about the journey, not the destination, and all the crazy ass random shit that passes along the way.