Movie Review: Magic Magic [2013]

Magic Magic

Magic Magic [2013]
Director: Sebastián Silva
Writer: Sebastián Silva
Genre: Thriller
Starring: Juno Temple, Emily Browning, Michael Cera, Catalina Sandino Moreno, Agustín Silva
Running Time: 97 minutes

It’s somewhat ironic that Magic Magic went straight to DVD. The previous Sebastián Silva & Michael Cera collaboration, the low-budget road movie Crystal Fairy, was filmed as a means to pass the time while waiting for funding for Magic Magic, yet it managed to receive a limited theatrical release. It’s a bit of a shame that both didn’t get proper releases, as they are both quite interesting little films, albeit incredibly different.

Magic Magic tells the story of a young American woman, Alicia (Juno Temple), who travels to Chile to visit her cousin Sarah (Emily Browning). Sarah has planned a long road trip to a secluded cabin, and she brings along a few of her friends: her boyfriend, Agustín (Agustín Silva), a local friend, Barbara (Catalina Sandino Moreno), and a fellow American, Brink (Michael Cera).

Magic Magic [2013]

The trip seems doomed from the start. Alicia has never left the U.S. before, and she is struggling to adapt to the new country. It doesn’t help that Sarah abandons her for part of the vacation to make an emergency trip back to Santiago, forcing Alicia to travel alone with people she does not know. Barbara appears standoffish, and Brink is downright creepy with some of his mannerisms.

Alicia struggles to get any decent sleep, and her insomnia starts producing frequent hallucinations. We are left to question what is real and what is a dream for much of the film’s running time. This culminates in a final act that is so wildly different from the rest that it will make or break the film for most viewers. I loved the direction the film went, as it changed its tone at just the right time, right before Alicia’s behavior grew too grating.

Magic Magic [2013]

Juno Temple has been one to watch in recent years, and she delivers what may be her finest performance yet in this lead role. Her blank stares and disillusioned expressions perfectly convey the vast emptiness that appears to be her mind. It’s not entirely clear what mental illness she may have — or if in fact it is just a bad case of insomnia — but it’s hard to look away from her. And, of course, it’s great to see Michael Cera once again take on a different type of role here, this time being both ghoulish and unpredictable.

Magic Magic may be a bit too much of a slow burn, but it’s a strangely enigmatic film that warrants a viewing. The odd Silva/Cera partnership continues to yield fruitful results, and I’m hoping this isn’t the last we see from them.

7/10

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Movie Review: Crystal Fairy [2013]

Crystal Fairy [2013]

Crystal Fairy [2013]
Director: Sebastián Silva
Writers: Sebastián Silva
Genre: Adventure/Comedy
Starring: Michael Cera, Gaby Hoffmann, Juan Andrés Silva
Running Time: 98 minutes

One of the biggest highlights in this year’s surprise comedy hit, This Is the End, is Michael Cera’s out of control, coked-out cameo. With his starring role in the Sundance selection, Crystal Fairy, Cera continues his recent on-screen drug binge, this time trading in James Franco’s mansion for the vast Chilean coastline.

Cera plays Jamie, a college-age American who has traveled to Chile in a quest to find the illustrious San Pedro cactus, the inside of which contains the hallucinogenic mescaline. Jamie is a stereotypical boorish American, the type of guy who is only thinking of himself and his object of desire (the cactus). It’s a wonder that he has managed to make any Chilean friends, but he does find himself in the company of three mild-mannered and polite brothers, the oldest of whom offers to help Jamie.

Crystal Fairy [2013]

At a party the night before their planned road trip, Jamie notices another American dancing by herself without any inhibition whatsoever. This amuses him to no end, and he starts cracking jokes about her to anyone who will listen. Eventually, he starts a conversation with her, discovering that her name is Crystal Fairy (Gaby Hoffmann). Still tickled at the idea of such a radical free spirit doing as she pleases, Jamie jokingly throws out the idea of her joining them on their cactus hunt. Surprisingly, she accepts.

Sure enough, the next morning he gets a phone call from Crystal, and she is waiting to be picked up in a nearby park. Jamie, further proving his selfishness, suggests ignoring her request and not bringing her along. His friends immediately discredit this notion, as they agree that would simply not be the right thing to do. And so the journey goes with two completely different Americans and three Chilean brothers.

Crystal Fairy [2013]

What follows is an easy-going road trip movie that manages to remain enjoyable despite taking its sweet time to get anywhere. The culture clash is very much at play here, but the biggest disparity is between Jamie and Crystal. Jamie is especially taken aback by her carefree behavior and casual nudity, and this seems to embarrass him far more than the others. Although both American characters are never really fleshed out all too much (and come across as little more than stereotypes), they are still just likable enough to make the film work.

The script is bare-bones at best, and much of the film is at least semi-improvised. This gives it an air of authenticity that helps remain engaging (it also probably helps that the cast members did in fact trip on mescaline for this film, some of which made it on screen). When the film does attempt to dig into a character’s back story, it feels unnecessary and tacked-on, providing a resolution that leaves something to be desired.

Still, sometimes it’s nice to just go along for the ride, and Crystal Fairy left me guessing throughout. I wasn’t sure where these characters would end up or what might happen during their adventure, and it was rare that I didn’t have a smile on my face. Sometimes that’s all that is needed.

7/10