Crystal Fairy Review: Hairy Hoo-Hahs and The Search For Psychedelic Enlightenment
Crystal Fairy is a strange journey from the city to the desert to the ocean, all in search of a transformative psychedelic experience. As an American visiting Chile, Jamie (Michael Cera) wants to drink the juice of the San Pedro cactus, which has psychedelic properties. Along for the ride is his host (Juan Andres Silva) and two brothers (José Miguel Silva, Agustín Silva) as well as a mysterious woman named Crystal Fairy (Gaby Hoffman) that Jamie invites while under the influence of drugs. The group makes their way through the desert, searching for the cactus along the way, before reaching the coast.
Both this and director Sebastian Silva’s other film, Magic Magic, were accepted into this year’s Sundance festival and I think should be considered as two sides of the same coin, fraternal twins conceived out in the wilds of Chile. Billed as some kind of comedic counterpart to the terrifying (and unfortunately better!) Magic Magic, Crystal Fairy is certainly lighter, easier to watch. Sebastian Silva used his own brothers as actors, in addition to Hoffman and Cera, which lends a nice kind of familiarity and casualness to the movie. What Silva does exceptionally well in both Crystal Fairy, and in Magic Magic, is evoking a mood, and his drug fueled sequences are gorgeous, soothing, engulfing.
Fairy is a free spirit, unique and content in her own self, given to a bit of silliness with mystical signs and wonders, but still a generous and good person. There’s something lovely about the sort of person who sees so much good in the world around her, and is able to access and translate it for others. She’s unperturbed by nudity, and her naked body is on display at several lengthy points though out, causing the boys to begin to call her Crystal Hairy. Gaby Hoffman happily drops trou without any kind of prissiness, and her acceptance of her own body is a thing to behold. People, even the boys in the film, talk shit about her appearance, but Hoffman is a striking woman and her body was treated without ceremony, a walking temple that does what it’s told to, and isn’t worth obsessing about.
Michael Cera’s character Jamie is typically spoiled and a bit bratty, willing to sacrifice everyone else’s experiences or desires in order to get what he wants. His drive to have things work out exactly as he plans is disrupted by his invitation to Crystal Fairy, whom he spends the rest of the movie trying to get rid of or ignore, even as she delights the rest of his traveling companions. Fairy invites openness and acceptance, and Jamie routinely rejects it with a skeptical eye roll, too good for her pat brand of mysticism. Jamie’s changes are the most abrupt and most fulfilling, and it’s lovely to see Cera experiment a bit in a role that isn’t pre-supposing his adorable vulnerability.
A strange little film, to be sure, and one that most people won’t see, unfortunately. Crystal Fairy is oddly riveting for a road trip film, the scenario so simple that introspective questions of identity… sorry, that thinking about yourself is inevitable. I’d like to be more of a Crystal Fairy, happy go lucky and along for the ride, open to new ideas and self discovery. But I fear too much that I am a Jamie, wanting my own way above all, critical of those I find different, selfish and closed off to any real community. A sobering thought, to be condemned by a drug road trip movie, but we can’t really pick our revelations, can we?
Aside from personal revelations of selfishness and casual cruelty, the story is so simple as to be a bit lacking. Crystal Fairy was good, as is, but still felt small and contained. Is it enough to showcase Americans taking what they like from the land, and then moving on? Is it enough that a story simply presents rival personalities and the impact they have on one another? While Jamie’s journey is certainly transformative as he realizes his mistakes and begins to make amends, is it worth sitting through an hour and a half?
Crystal Fairy falls short of perfection, but what’s left is tidy, spare and enjoyably accomplishes what it sets out to do.