Release: Friday, July 12, 2013 (limited)
Despite the poster, Michael Cera doesn’t spend the entire film running around, looking like he’s about to elope with part of a cactus. He does come close to doing just that, though, at one point or another, but come on. If you are sitting there thinking this is going to be a movie of any reasonable consequence, well, please by all means. . .pass that sweet cactus juice because I want to trip balls with you too.
Yes, friends, that is the kind of “aim high” movie we have on our hands here. A young student (read: nuisance) traveling abroad named Jamie (Cera) is desperate to find a chunk of the fabled San Pedro cactus, as its liquid contents apparently can make you hallucinate intensely. He just has to tick this off his list as he makes his way — abrasively — along the Chilean coast.
He’s not alone in his mission. Inexplicably he has found three or four locals who regularly want to hang around him, a few quiet Chilean boys who all seem equally infatuated with this crazy plant. One night at a party in the last town Jamie’s been staying in, he casually tosses out an invitation to join him on his mission to find this magical cactus — an invitation to an interesting woman who calls herself ‘Crystal Fairy.’ With thick, dark hair and a vibrant personality, Gaby Hoffman (Volcano, Field of Dreams)’s a striking presence, if for no reason other than how much she contrasts the rest of the scenery.
The next day on the road we find out what kind of person Jamie really is. When he discovers that he has invited this ‘hippie chick’ along with them on their journey, he immediately starts wishing he hadn’t. In fact he tries denying he really invited her. At the same time, we discover Cera’s capacity for acting — literally, acting — like a complete jackanape.
One truly hopes he is simply a surprisingly convincing character actor, and nothing more. Jamie is a massive thorn in the side, a quality that’s pretty evident from the get-go; however as the film goes on his character intentionally becomes the issue we have to deal with, more and more.
Slight as the film is, characters are everything. Dislike him or even hate him, it doesn’t change the fact that Cera actually makes for a rather effective anti-hero. Jamie is so unlikable that any transformational experience that supposedly does happen in this film happens solely in his character’s attitude. He goes from unbearable to slightly more tolerable come the end. Is that a good enough reason to get a lot of peeps to watch this film? Probably not. But it’s one of the only things a viewer is likely to notice or recall after seeing it.
Crystal Fairy tries, and tries pretty hard, to matter. It ekes out a rather. . .shall I say, “flashy?”. . . show from Hoffman, whose performance starkly contrasts from Cera’s more hyped-up and exasperating Jamie. They are good performances, but they are not particularly fun or interesting to watch. Even more so the group of friends of Jamie’s who all seem relegated to one-word lines for the entire hour and a half. None of them factored in whatsoever and weren’t effective in portraying what was intended to be a safe ‘middleground’ in opinion during each moment where Jamie and Crystal Fairy butted heads.
What’s most disappointing about the quietness of this film is that the journey was one advertised as a magical, adventurous experience — a unique little quirk of a film. This is an unspectacular psychedelic with a needlessly flashy street name. Unfortunately, Crystal Fairy overall does not compel enough as a trip worth taking.
Recommendation: Here’s a great movie to watch if you want convincing that Michael Cera can really be irritating. I’ve always read things about him being an irritating actor, and yet I have not seen a role that has really gotten on my nerves. This wouldn’t be a problem necessarily if the writing was better and if the events here mattered one iota. But they don’t, and all you really end up doing is roaming in a no-man’s land of a cinematic experience.
Running Time: 98 mins.
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