Crystal Fairy…yes! #Sundance
— David Fear (@davidlfear) January 18, 2013
Sam Adams, writing at the AV Club, has also been won over: “Sebastían Silva’s Crystal Fairy (A-), which lost ‘& the Magical Cactus & 2012‘ somewhere between the title card and the festival catalogue, is an accidental film, put together in a rush when another project Silva and star Michael Cera were involved in temporarily fell apart. (That movie, Magic Magic, premieres later in the week.) It’s a fitting origin for a movie about characters who don’t know where they’re going, and end up better off because of it. Cera plays an idle American bent on sampling every variety of drug Chile has to offer. Quoting Aldous Huxley while opining to no one in particular about the qualities of a batch of coke, he’s insufferable from the moment we lay eyes on him, a perfect caricature of an enlightenment junkie whose utopian jargon clashes with his hostile insecurity. Cera’s Chilean friends—or rather, the three Chilean brothers who mysteriously tolerate him—call him ‘pollo,’ perhaps a reference to his wavy, sun-damaged hair or his high-strung temperament.”
And they’re “accompanied by a spacey young American named Crystal Fairy (Gaby Hoffmann), a hippie born forty years too late,” notes the Hollywood Reporter‘s Todd McCarthy. “The guys mostly stumble, splash and goof around in a manner that no doubt would have embarrassed Huxley. Interest and focus thus shift over to Crystal, who quite spontaneously gets naked, ill-advisedly wanders around the desert and tries to climb rocks. That night, sitting around a bonfire after the drug’s effects have mostly worn off, she lets loose with a painful personal revelation that serves to awaken a compassionate streak in Jamie he might never have known he had…. The director shot this in 12 days and it looks it, but considerable care has gone into the editing and particularly the soundtrack, which is loaded with a crazy quilt of sounds and songs. The film is both more carefree and ragged than Silva’s previous two features, The Maid, which won the world cinema dramatic jury prize at Sundance in 2009, and Old Cats, which played the festival two years later.”
“While sometimes quite funny, the movie ultimately features a losing battle between two distinct narrative impulses, both intermittently engaging but together at odds with each other,” finds Indiewire‘s Eric Kohn. “Silva’s expert direction, aided by Cristián Petit Laurent’s handheld cinematography, creates an intimate feeling that lends a loose feel to the proceedings. That’s fine until Crystal Fairy encourages the expectation that its scenario will develop. Instead, as Jamie’s mean-spirited regard for Crystal creeps toward an inevitable eruption, the movie loses momentum.”
— Hammer to Nail (@hammertonail) January 18, 2013
“In the long history of movies about drugs and drug culture, there are few films that have ever done such a potent and poignant job of capturing both the chemical crescendos and the emotional ebb and flow,” finds Drew McWeeney at HitFix.
For the Los Angeles Times, Steven Zeitchik reports on the first screening and Q&A with Silva and Cera, noting that “it’s not every American actor who’ll hug a cactus on a Chilean beach with a naked hippie.”
Updates: For Entertainment Weekly‘s Lisa Schwarzbaum, Crystal Fairy “tastes a little of Y tu mamá tambien, with its sandy ramble of an outing.” It’s also “shot through with sharp, fleeting insights about beauty, spontaneity, and the human hunger to connect.”
“Fairy is not all drug-fueled laughs,” notes Anthony Kaufman for Screen. “Silva is after something deeper than a mere drug movie, touching upon the fine lines between the fronts people put up and who they really are, as well as a plea for tolerating other’s differences.”
“Gaby Hoffmann’s titular character is blissful,” finds Jeremy Kay, writing for the Guardian. And Film.com‘s Jordan Hoffman is “compelled to revisit her entire CV to try to find the roots of this remarkable, funny and touching performance.”
Time Out New York‘s David Fear finds that “this fuzzy-headed farce works its magic on viewers in sly increments and uses Cera’s inherent irritability to great effect; a beautifully framed two-shot of the actor’s face and a hairy vagina is a lesson in comic economy. It also mirrors the arc of a drug trip to a tee (or so, um, I’ve been told), as it goes from anxiety to wooziness to a final come down in the last ten minutes that’s a bit of a bummer. Still, that final-act fumble wasn’t enough to kill my buzz.”
“So let’s talk about Gaby Hoffman for a minute, because after this film, people will be,” writes Vulture‘s Kyle Buchanan. “Hoffman’s best known for her work as a child actress in films like Sleepless in Seattle and Now and Then (she also appeared in an episode of Louie last year).” Cera’s Jamie is “enraged when she can soberly stare at a pile of rocks and claim to see a face in them; every yoga pose and ‘healing session’ she instigates, with noisy bracelets and bangles clanking on her wrists, only increases his irritation. Inevitably, Jamie will come to a drug-addled détente with Crystal, but boy, does he drag his feet…. And though Jamie hates the free-spirited Crystal, Silva is clearly fond of her; no surprise, since Silva revealed after the screening that he based the film on his own mescaline-fueled road trip with a mysterious female hippie ten years ago. He hopes the movie will act as an incantation to bring the real-life Crystal back into his life. ‘I know she’s gonna reach out, and I hope she does. I actually got along with her,’ said Silva. He chuckled. ‘I was a fairy myself.'”
“So how does the new, drugged-out, lo-fi Cera play?” asks Flavorwire‘s Jason Bailey. “Surprisingly well…. The shock is less the substances he’s inhaling than how he seems to approach the audience: most of his characters to date have been deeply likable, sympathetic even, and he seemed highly complicit in that arrangement (which may be what turned some audiences off to him). His role here is still basically comic in nature, but he’s less of the squeaky-clean manchild type. What’s more, we’re laughing at him most of the time, and his willingness to play such a (purposefully) dislikable and annoying guy—to use the backlash against him in service of the role—indicates a savviness and self-awareness that could serve him well from here on out.”
“Although the group’s three brothers (played by the director’s own) fail to register except as near-silent partners in the escapade, the film’s first half is thoroughly amiable and occasionally hilarious, with dialogue and situations gaining authenticity from Silva’s deft coordination of the actors’ on-set improv,” writes Rob Nelson in Variety. “Everything builds to the quintet’s beachfront mescaline trip, the details of which supply Silva with only a mild quantity of hallucinatory stylistics while Jamie’s consciousness evolves in more predictably sober terms. It’s ironic—and buzz-killing to say the least—that a movie about mind expansion would narrow itself into a formula familiar from any number of earnest made-for-cable youth pics.”
Updates, 1/19: “At first impression, Jamie is too big of a dick and Crystal Fairy too much of a weirdo to want to spend an entire movie with,” writes Ryland Aldrich at Twitch. “But a funny thing happens on the way to the desert.”
“It’s hard to overstate how unpleasant Cera is in the film,” writes Zach Baron at Grantland. Still, this is “a maddening, annoying, viscerally direct film that is probably my favorite thing I’ve seen in 2013 so far, not that I’ve seen much.”
“Crystal Fairy would be a damn near perfect oddity if its third act didn’t feel so painstaking, unable to achieve the incredible high it achieves during its setup,” writes Nicholas Bell at Ioncinema.
Update, 1/26: Cory Everett at the Playlist: “The film is full of oddball touches like swelling dramatic strings accompanying an unwanted phone call, the camera lingering on two dogs fucking in the foreground of a shot (never not funny), and moments of sadness scattered throughout that lend emotional heft to the comedy. One of the most satisfying things about Crystal Fairy is that even though the lead character prefers to keep an ironic distance from things, the film itself is completely sincere. It’s about being good to people even when they’re kind of ridiculous.”
Update, 2/4: IFC Films has picked up North American rights.
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