Crystal Fairy Movie Review
Films don't get much more offbeat than this trippy comedy-drama about Americans in Chile. Thankfully there are some provocative themes gurgling under the surface - not just in the constant drug-taking but also in the way the film depicts the self-involved behaviour of Americans abroad. And the characters are complex and witty enough to keep us engaged.
At a raucous party in Santiago, Jamie (Cera) is trying to open his horizons by indulging in as much alcohol and drugs as he can find. When he meets the free-spirited fellow-American Crystal Fairy (Hoffmann), he invites her along on a road trip with brothers Champa, Pilo and Lel (played by the filmmaker's siblings Juan Andres, Augustin and Jose Miguel). As they drive through the country to a deserted stretch of coastline, Jamie becomes increasingly intent on finding some San Pedro cactus, because he's heard that boiling it up and drinking it causes hallucinations.
Even though Jamie and Crystal are a mass of American obsessions and phobias, their enthusiastic naivete makes them both irritating and likeable. And like the brothers, we grow tired of their arrogant assumptions and random demands. When Jamie tries to get people to sell him some cactus, he whines "Look how much you have!" when they say no, completely missing the irony of his privileged background. And of course his believe that everything has a price. Both Cera and Hoffmann find fascinating edges to these characters, keeping them grounded while hinting that even their drug tripping is due to self-indulgence rather than inebriation.
The film's full title is Crystal Fairy & the Magical Cactus and 2012, layering one more obsession into the mix: Crystal is sure the world will end on 21 December 2012. The Chileans they meet all dismiss their compulsiveness with laughter, especially as the plot enters its more free-form, emotional final act. This gives the film a strong but affectionate kick, as it explores the perception of the US as a nation that always thinks it's right and sees the rest of the world as subservient. And it's Lel who puts this into words while sitting around the campfire: "The scariest thing in the world is a person who has bad intentions but doesn't realise it."