Up until recently actor Michael Cera was in danger of painting himself into a corner. With films like Superbad, Juno, and Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist under his belt, a certain distinctive sameness in look, style and sound was beginning to limit his teenage appeal. Then with the small though exceptionally noticeable role in This Is The End and now the release of Crystal Fairy, Cera has pretty much jettisoned his nice-guy image out into the stratosphere. And that’s a good thing. Now he can start concentrating on a new phase.
In Crystal Fairy, Cera plays Jamie, a not altogether likable American living in Chile who, along with three Chilean friends, hits the road in search of a rare San Pedro cactus; the kind that causes a drug induced hallucinogenic experience. Jamie’s plan is to find the cactus, boil it down and drink its juice while lounging on a beach. The journey in search of this particular nirvana is upset somewhat by the appearance of an oddball American free spirit called Crystal Fairy (Gaby Hoffman) who joins the men on the road trip and causes conflict and plenty of upset along the way.
The style is almost as hallucinogenic as its subject matter. Told in a rambling, documentary manner and shot with a hand-held, there’s a feeling that we’re not actually watching a film, we’re eavesdropping on highlights of an aimless lifestyle. We’re the flies on the wall, silently observing, unseen, as these not altogether interesting characters hang out, get drunk, smoke, argue, and drive through Chile in search of the magical cactus. “Just think,” one of the three local friends states as they watch Jamie stagger around the beach, high on cactus juice, “He came all the way to Chile for that thing.”
The problem with Crystal Fairy – its full name, by the way, is Crystal Fairy & The Magical Cactus and 2012 – is that its seemingly improvised manner never gives you a clear foothold. There comes a point where you might think that if something of interest in this meandering and overly casual approach to story telling doesn’t happen soon, you might give up long before these characters ever reach the beach.
The acting from all is fine, particularly Cera and one time child actress Gaby Hoffman who you may remember as Kevin Costner’s young daughter in Field of Dreams. In Crystal Fairy, Hoffman, now in her early thirties, has developed into a convincing performer with an obvious broad range that, like Cera, exhibits none of the limitations that some of her previous work would have suggested. Plus, again like Cera’s ugly-American, her character is not altogether someone with whom you would want to spend a lot of time.
There is some humor that might raise a smile. “What happened to the Fairy?” asks Jamie at one point. “Did she fly away?” But the film, despite its relatively short running time, never fully engages or wins you over. It may be a springboard for a new direction in the careers of both Cera and Hoffman, but as a stand-alone feature Crystal Fairy is frankly nothing short of tedious.
MPAA Rating: Unrated Length: 98 minutes Overall Rating: 3 (out of 10)