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⋆⋆½ out of four stars
Unrated: Nudity, language and drug use. In English and subtitled Spanish.
In “Crystal Fairy,” Michael Cera plays a pushy American tourist party-hopping his way across Chile. Imbibing liquor and cocaine and eager to sample mescaline tea distilled from a local cactus, Jamie claims to be inspired by Aldous Huxley’s “The Doors of Perception.” The script’s running joke is that he’s blind to the folkways of his host country and the sensitivities of everyone around him. He doesn’t need psychotropics so much as a good slap.
He gets that, metaphorically, from a freewheeling hippie girl nicknamed Crystal Fairy (Gaby Hoffmann), who joins Jamie as he travels to the coast in search of the legendary San Pedro cactus. Her interpersonal radar is as off-kilter as his, but in an outgoing, oversharing direction. Their travels, with a trio of local brothers (writer/director Sebastian Silva’s brothers Juan Andres, Jose Miguel and Agustín), have a shaggy-dog quality. The movie is agreeably thrown together. It's clear there was lots of improvising, and the cast reportedly drank San Pedro while filming the later scenes.
Former child star Hoffmann gives the new age-y Crystal Fairy an openness that is as uncomfortable as a raw wound. When the group begins tripping beside the ocean, insecurities are exposed, and the film’s comedy of annoyance takes a sudden bittersweet turn. The movie is a little Mobius strip of laughter and pain.