A humble little movie that packs a pretty big punch, Crystal Fairy was made like a mumblecore film (see: Baghead, The Puffy Chair, Humpday), with an open-ended plot, liberal editing, and improvised dialogue. Except instead of shuttering the thrust of the film behind circular, protracted conversations, Crystal Fairy sends its protagonists on a traditional emotional arc, leaving both the characters and the audience unmistakably changed by the end of the film -- doing so through a definite course of events, subtle as those events may be.
The main character is an entitled American twentysomething named Jamie (Michael Cera), who is spending his summer in Chile doing drugs and making people feel uncomfortable. Cera nails the performance as the kind of arrogant kid who talks incessantly and without guile about his personal journey of self-discovery while simultaneously acting like a conceited, condescending jerk at every turn. He’s at a party with his Chilean roommate Champa (Juan Andrés Silva) when he meets a borderline-annoying hippie who calls herself Crystal Fairy (Gaby Hoffman). Jamie initially begins a conversation with Crystal Fairy because he feels the need to earnestly inform her that her free-spirited dancing is “embarrassing herself,” but the fact that the girl speaks with such shamelessly positive New Age sweetness completely sways Jamie on his opinion of her, mostly because he is extremely high on cocaine.
Pretty soon, Jamie is inviting Crystal Fairy to come with him and Champa the next day, when they plan to pick up Champa’s two brothers (played by director Sebastián Silva’s real-life siblings) and take a road trip down to the ocean, where they can pick and boil down a San Pedro cactus and all do mescaline on the beach. Of course, Jamie only endorses this idea for the duration of his coke high, and when he wakes up sober the next day, he’s horrified that Crystal Fairy has accepted his invitation. But Champa and his brothers are fine with the funky girl and her disarming, if ridiculous banter about vibrations and chakras, and more importantly, they are too considerate to reject Crystal Fairy when she was given an explicit invitation.
Interestingly, what makes the ensuing journey most compelling is that Jamie isn’t completely wrong about Crystal Fairy; anyone can see that some portion of her talk about seeing auras and performing Healing Energy Work is probably BS, but the point is that this observation doesn’t offer any insight about why she would adopt this pretense, or explore whether there is really any harm in her choosing to take on a persona whose chief attributes are positivity and joy. Jamie’s rude passive aggression contrasts with the “just roll with it” attitude of Champa and his brothers, who intuitively understand that the pleasure of nearly anything lies in the process, not merely the end result. This principle would seem to apply to the entire movie, which does indeed offer a very moving conclusion -- one that provides the most satisfaction if you’re on board with the characters from beginning to end. leave a comment --Cammila Collar