Crystal Fairy, written and directed by Sebastian Silva (The Maid), is not your typical “drug movie”. It is actually a fascinating character study about what the world sees as normal human behavior, and what is seen as irregular. Of course, the plot of the film centers around the characters’ mission to find and ingest a hallucinogenic drug, but that falls secondary to the real message in Crystal Fairy, embracing the abnormality of a seemingly odd, free-spirited young woman.
The story of Crystal Fairy is pretty simple. Jamie (Michael Cera), the stereotypical version of an “ugly American”, is visiting Chile for the sole purpose of drinking a hallucinogenic liquid made from the San Pedro cactus. Before he and his three friends (played by the director’s brothers) can set off on their road trip to acquire the cactus, however, he meets Crystal Fairy (Gaby Hoffmann) at a house party. After a drunken conversation, he convinces her to join their road trip. The morning after, he is shocked when Crystal actually shows up for the adventure.
Crystal is just as “strange” as she was the night before, only this time, Jamie is not drunk enough to enjoy her company. His neurotic personality cannot handle Crystal’s free-spirited, earthy ways, which consists of open nakedness (resulting in a new nickname “hairy fairy”), crystal healing, and other peculiar things. Honestly, at first I couldn’t stand this cringe-worthy character either. However, the beauty of this film is that suddenly, Crystal starts to grow on you. Instead of backing Jamie up with his annoyance of Crystal, you start to feel sorry for her and take her side. It soon becomes apparent that although the story is about the adventure to find the San Pedro cactus, it is more about the journey the group of friends takes to find themselves and appreciate each other.
Crystal Fairy was a pleasant surprise to my summer movie-going experience, one that has been full of high-budget, special-effect heavy blockbusters. It was especially refreshing the way this movie was shot. Silva filmed most of the scenes on the fly, with a minimal script, allowing the actors to improvise most of their actions and dialogue. Although the tempo of the plot was a little slow at times, by the end of the film I found myself actually caring about the characters and whether they would ever find the mysterious hallucinogenic cactus.
There has also not been a braver performance this year than that of child actor, Gaby Hoffmann. I remember Gabby fondly from one of my favorite films of all time, Now and Then. In this film, however, she makes a triumphant return to Hollywood by demonstrating how much she has grown up and in doing so, steals the movie. Gabby is not only a talented actress, but she is brave enough to play a character that is there to get a reaction from the audience (from laughter to love). She also has to be naked (literally au naturale) for a good chunk of the movie. You don’t get much braver than that! Hoffmann does a great job using Crystal Fairy’s quirkiness to make her endearing instead of obnoxious, and that’s hard feat to accomplish.
Though I wouldn’t suggest you rush out to theaters to see Crystal Fairy, you would be doing yourself a service to rent it when it comes out on DVD. I love movies that are different than anything I have ever seen before, and Crystal Fairy is certainly that.
My Review: B+