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December 13, 2013

Movies You Missed & More: Crystal Fairy & the Magical Cactus and 2012

Screen Shot 2013-12-13 at 12.02.04 AMThis week in movies you missed: Michael Cera plays against type in the indie movie with the year's best title, hands down (though Netflix just calls it Crystal Fairy).

What You Missed

Once upon a time, there was a young woman named Crystal Fairy (Gaby Hoffmann) who led a charmed life of doodling in her journal and accruing good karma with random acts of kindness. Then she took a trip to Chile, where she met her nemesis, the Pollo Loco.

Actually, his real name was Jamie (Cera), and he was an American tourist like Crystal Fairy. When they met at a party, he told her he was on a mission to consume as many hallucinogens as possible, specifically a cactus fabled to grow in a small rural town.

Crystal Fairy was totally down with ascending to a higher plane of consciousness, especially in 2012, the end of the material world as we know it. So when Jamie suggested she meet up in the boonies with him and his three Chilean friends (Juan Andrés Silva, José Miguel Silva and Agustín Silva), she did just that.

Only then Jamie did a 180 and started acting like a control-freak douche-nozzle. He ordered his three friends around, he pretended he'd never invited Crystal Fairy on the trip, and he pursued his magical cactus with the aggressive humorlessness of a businessman demanding the right amount of foam on his latte.

That's when he got his nickname — and Crystal Fairy set out to teach him how somebody really seeks enlightenment.

Why You Missed It

This rapidly made, largely improvised indie was written and directed by the fourth Silva brother, Sebastián (The Maid). Sundance acclaim, 20-theater release; now on Netflix and Amazon Instant.

Should You Keep Missing It?

If you don't expect a lot from Crystal Fairy, you may be pleasantly surprised. It's a classic shaggy-dog story that's also a surprisingly funny stealth comedy.

That's almost entirely due to the two lead actors and their anti-chemistry. Despite their common interest in opening the "doors of perception," Jamie and Crystal Fairy are fated to clash from the moment they set eyes on each other.

The movie resembles an extended improv scene in which two people with opposite modes of craziness drive each other crazy. The three Chilean brothers serve as straight men, and the ravishing desert and coastal landscapes offer eye candy.

Former child star Hoffmann brings surprising depth to what might have been a hippie-dippy stereotype. But the movie's real revelation is how convincing and funny Cera is as an Ugly American. If you've grown tired of his reliably sweet, woozy, boyish on-screen persona, you'll appreciate this — it's like he crossed his DNA with Paul Dano's and overcaffeinated the result. (Almost any time we see Dano on screen, we know he's going to cause trouble for the film's protagonist, probably while sniveling.)

But there's a bit of depth to the Pollo Loco, too. By the end of the movie, both characters have developed beyond jokes and maybe, just maybe, learned to tolerate each other.

Verdict: I hope to see more of Dark Cera in the near future.

This Week in Theaters

It's all about The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. Over at the Savoy, you can catch Daniel Radcliffe as Allen Ginsberg in Kill Your Darlings.

This Week on Video

The Angels' Share, Battle of the Year, Despicable Me 2, Fast & Furious 6, The Hunt, Sightseers, Berberian Sound Studio.

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