Thursday, March 26, 2015
Crystal Fairy and the Magical Cactus and 2012
Michael Cera, looking like a hipster Harpo Marx, is the ugly American in Chile. We don't know anything about him except he's bunking with Champa (Juan Andres Silva) and in pursuit of mescaline made with a certain kind of cactus. He and Silva and his two brothers had a plan to drive up north of find the cactus, but Cera impulsively invites a free-spirited woman who calls herself Crystal Fairy (Gaby Hoffman) to come with them.
The writer and director, Sebastian Silva, avoids some cliches. For example, instead of piling Hoffman into the Suburban the boys use, and making it a more conventional road picture, she meets there after taking a bus, holding back the character's impact. Also, Hoffman's shrewd performance (much of the script was improvised from outline) keep Crystal from being a walking cliche. Sure, she doesn't shave her armpits, she's free with her nudity (Hoffman has two long extended nude scenes), and she's convinced the world will end on December 21, 2012, the end of the Mayan calendar, but she also seems like a real person.
Cera also gives a smart performance. Through much of the film is a complete jerk--Silva and his brothers can hardly stand him--and when he realizes that Hoffman is coming he treats her horribly, ridiculing her beliefs. But, whether it's the cactus or his own self-consciousness, his exterior cracks as he trips in the Chilean desert.
I really admired Hoffman, though. Apparently she was based on a real person that Silva (the director) knew, and you could see in Hoffman's performance the pain and regret that she might have had to lead her to this point. A long monologue about when she was raped almost seems overkill, as we didn't need to heart it. But Cera's character did, as he was unable to see much beyond the edge of his nose, even as he babbled about Huxley's Doors of Perception.
While this film could have done with a less precious title, but I found it interesting and richly authentic, even if the 2012 part is now dated (hey, we survived!)