“Crystal Fairy and the Magical Cactus and 2012” is a movie that puts me in an awkward position.
The name of the blog is “Movies that Don’t Suck,” and I’m having trouble deciding if “Crystal Fairy” fits into the category.
Well, in the danger of falling into the trap of thinking that a movie without polish is a movie without quality, let’s operate under the assumption that “Crystal Fairy” does not indeed suck.
The film was thrown together by Chilean director Sebastian Silva while he (and his three brothers Juan, Jose and Agustin) were hosting Michael Cera when he was learning Spanish for their upcoming psychological thriller, “Magic Magic.”
Gabby Hoffman, who stars as the titular Crystal Fairy (a New Age hippie), completes the B-list star-power duo that gives “Crystal Fairy” all of its recognizable faces.
That plot revolves around Jamie (Cera), a self-centered American expat living in Chile, on a trip with his four friends (played by the Silva brothers) to find a mescaline-infused cactus species called the San Pedro.
Crystal enters the scene when Jamie unwittingly invites her along for the ride whilst high on cocaine and marijuana.
And so the drug-addled sextet departs on a journey of self-discovery to find themselves a magic cactus and hang out on the beach.
The film really starts to get good when the group arrives at their destination, cactus in hand.
There’s conflict between Jamie and the rest of the group, mostly due to his self-centered, almost Melvillian obsession with the San Pedro.
Without spoiling anything, I’ll say that the movie gets a little strange towards the end, especially when Crystal separates from the group after an argument with Jamie.
The film’s conclusion is both weird and oddly satisfying and meaningful, or at least as meaningful as you could hope for in a non sequitur of a movie such as this.
Something to consider when watching “Crystal Fairy” is that it’s largely improvised and that in many of the scenes, one or more of the actors is on drugs.
This gives the film a fantastically natural feel, especially in the relationships between different cast members.
As I mentioned before, Cera (who throws off his typecast character for a more frenetic, “jerky” character) had been living with the Silva boys for months, so their friendship doesn’t feel at all forced or lacking in depth.
Hoffman was given a character description only about a week before she left for Chile. Her instructions were to “grab any books on 2012 (one of Crystal’s quirks is that she’s obsessed with the end of the world) and get on a plane for Chile.”
Because of this, Hoffman has appeared just as suddenly as Crystal has in the lives of Cera and the Silva brothers, which makes her role as an outsider to the group feel genuine.
“Crystal Fairy” does have its rough patches, and I can honestly say that without Silva’s directing skills, the movie would have languished in its own weirdness.
While the movie still feels a little directionless, Silva manages to focus it into a tale of a self-centered person discovering what it means to feel compassion for another.
However, as I mentioned before, the film lacks polish, and I think that the improvisation contributes a great deal to this.
Cera, who has been known to have considerable improv talent ever since 2007’s “Superbad,” performs quite well with this style of filmmaking. The same can be said for Hoffman, who manages to make a great character without much direction.
The Silva brothers, however, show less talent. You’ll soon get tired of the “Yeah”’s and “Okay”’s that are their go-to responses.
Perhaps “Crystal Fairy”’s main problem is that it seems a little too natural, too genuine.
However, it is a movie that teaches us that a film doesn’t have to be polished to be good. Sometimes improvised, slapped-together charm overcomes the various rough patches in a film. Here, it definitely works.