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Monday, July 1, 2013


Gaby Hoffmann, left, and Michael Cera, right, in Crystal Fairy
Courtesy of Sundance Selects

2013, 98 minutes
Not Rated

Review by Joshua Handler

NOTE: I was able to review this film through the generous support of the Rooftop Films Summer 2013 Series, which features early screenings of hot new independent films straight from the early year festival circuit.  This screening was held on the Open Road Rooftop at the New Design High School and a Q&A with Sebastián Silva, Michael Cera, and one of Silva's brothers who stars in the film following the screening.  Tickets for the upcoming films can be purchased here.  It is a truly unique film series.  Their events make for a great, and cheap at $13, night out in NYC.  There was an after-party with free drinks served that I did not attend.  Please support Rooftop Films and go to their events.  They are among the best film events in NYC.

Winner of the Directing Prize at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival, Sebastián Silva's Crystal Fairy is an example of modern comedy at its very best.  Starring Michael Cera and Gaby Hoffmann, Crystal Fairy tells the story of Jamie (Cera), a socially inept American tourist in Chile who goes with his friend, his friend's brothers, and an American woman, Crystal Fairy (Hoffmann), who he met and accidentally invited while high at a party, to go on a road trip to find the San Pedro cactus, a legendary plant that contains Mescaline.  

Silva and his cast make all the right moves.  Silva's direction of Crystal Fairy is unobtrusive, yet smart, as he manages to avoid many clichés that plague this kind of film, notably the romantic subplot.  This is a film about friendship, not romance, and Silva fully realizes this. Crystal and Jaimie do not fall in love.  No spoiler there.  Silva could have cheapened the movie and gone the romance route, but wisely chose not to.  The ending is also very different from what one might expect from a film like this.  Most importantly, though, the film has a big heart.  Those of you who read my reviews of comedies may have noticed that I frequently mourn the lack of heart in modern comedies.  Crystal Fairy has such a big heart; it cares for every character from Jaime and Crystal all the way down to Señora Chilita, a small character in the film who has a split second moment onscreen that will break your heart.  Silva gives as much attention and weight to the little moments as the big ones.  These little moments are so beautifully-observed that it is hard not to marvel.  They give Crystal Fairy much of its power.

Gaby Hoffmann gives a performance that is beautiful and multi-dimensional.  She plays Crystal Fairy, the epitome of modern-day hippie.  Crystal is a woman of the universe, so to say.  Much as she would like to think of herself as a strong person who's always right, she isn't.  Hoffmann's performance is fearless and she completely disappears into the character.  She nails Crystal's quirks, and I always looked forward to her next scene.  This is a performance that few could have pulled off, but Hoffmann more than rises to the challenge and completely transforms into the role.

Michael Cera is a revelation.  He plays Jamie, who is as unlikable as they come.  He is hyper-focused on obtaining a San Pedro cactus, afraid of Crystal's ways, and incredibly rude.  Cera is an actor who can create uncomfortable tension in a scene with his presence alone, and in Crystal Fairy, he cranks up the uncomfortable factor to a new level.  While Jamie is unlikable, he has another side, a vulnerable one that, when opened, is shown brilliantly by Cera.

Overall, Crystal Fairy is a wonderful character study and clever comedy.  I have now seen it twice and will certainly see it again.  It is a film that rewards multiple viewings, as it gets richer every time.  The film was shot in 12 days and was unscripted, making Silva, Hoffmann, and Cera's feats even more impressive.  Silva attended the screening I was at and said that the story is largely true and that there is a real Crystal Fairy out there.  Please go see this movie in theaters or rent it on VOD when it is released on July 12.  It is such a breath of fresh air.


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