Ashvegas movie review: Crystal Fairy


It is what it is.
(Sundance Selects)

There may not be a more amusing film this year than Crystal Fairy.  In terms of the year’s best comedy, This Is the End remains the champ, but the means by which good times are derived in writer/director Sebastián Silva’s film are far more nuanced.  Led by a goofy yet focused Michael Cera as a young American abroad, the Chilean story remains fresh and unpredictable from start to finish.  Though Cera’s Jamie isn’t someone whose presence is all that desirable, the film overcomes his egotism through a poignant shedding of pretensions with the help of a fellow expatriate, Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros…and hallucinogens.

The Doors of Perception: barred.
(Sundance Selects)

Apparently in Chile solely to trip on mescaline from the sacred San Pedro cactus, Jamie does as he pleases without much concern for others.  Such qualities could easily turn disastrous in the hands of the wrong actor, but with his Sideshow Bob haircut and cartoonish timbre, Cera transforms Jamie’s pompous nature into something resembling endearment.  Frequently name-checking Aldous Huxley’s The Doors of Perception and complaining about the quality of local drugs, he’s a lovable mess who doesn’t know better despite thinking he does.  Early scenes of forcing this agenda on others and enacting his own version of David Sedaris’ unflushable turd experience from “Big Boy” make for quality chuckles, but it isn’t until he encounters Crystal Fairy (Gaby Hoffmann) that his adventures truly take off.

Reenacting the fire-starter scene from Cast Away.
(Sundance Selects)

Hiding behind her own mask of dirty teeth, witch hair, and random musings, Hoffmann is very much Cera’s comedic equal.  In this fellow American, Jamie is threatened by someone who is, above all, more interesting and whose untethered soul and lack of modesty (her carefree and razor-free nudity earns her the nickname Crystal Hairy) could potentially derail his mapped-out plan, which for him isn’t an option.  Joining Jamie and his Chilean roommate Champa (Juan Andrés Silva) and Champa’s brothers Lel (José Miguel Silva) and Pilo (Agustín Silva) in their quest for San Pedro, Crystal’s hippie kindness clashes with Jamie’s insistence that the brothers translate his rude requests to people who don’t want to sell them cacti.  It’s this basic divergence of manners that plants seeds of conflict, and with the promise of an amplified experience under the mescaline, the hope that everyone will mellow out before getting high becomes deliciously less likely.

Waiting for the barbershop to open.
(Sundance Selects)

Shepherded by Sebastián Silva’s simple yet engaging direction, the natural rapport between these five 20somethings is a pleasure to behold.  Though the two American extroverts are the main draw, the brothers’ role as a poker-faced sounding board for these weirdos brings its own array of charms and is necessary to balance out the gringos.  Likewise grounding the interactions is the well-chronicled process of selecting, preparing, and cooking the San Pedro, a visual guidebook to wishful enlightenment.

Losing its way somewhat during the subjective trip sequence, Crystal Fairy remains intriguing and ultimately touching in its strong final act.  Rarely has one simple gesture been as powerful as it is here, but through these memorable characters’ shared journey, the basic act of forgiveness becomes surprisingly divine.

Grade: B+

Not rated.

Crystal Fairy is currently playing at the Carolina Cinemas on Hendersonville Rd.


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Crystal Costner September 2, 2013 - 2:49 pm

Does anybody know why UNCA is open on Labor Day when almost every single school in the country is closed? There was no explanation, and the holiday has been observed every other year. Were officials concerned that students would take the opportunity to have a mega-moral-monday protest?
UNCA students are offering free lemonade to staff in recognition of the day.

Bobja September 2, 2013 - 2:28 pm

Why this blog turned into a movie review blog, I just won’t understand…I guess the blogger’s interest entitles them to ruin a good thing

Jason Sandford September 3, 2013 - 9:25 am

Bobja, Ashvegas is much more than a movie review blog. Edwin is doing an awesome job with his reviews, while I post about news, arts events and entertainment in Asheville.

Jacque September 3, 2013 - 12:14 pm

I agree with Bobja–the proliferation of movie reviews has irked me for a while. I come to this site for information about Asheville. There is nothing unique about movie reviews, as I can get them from dozens of other places. Why not have book reviews, album reviews, horoscopes, etc? The effort would be better spent reviewing events that are specific to Asheville: concerts, limited movie screenings (that aren’t happening in every other town in America), art shows, fundraisers, special events, etc.

To echo the original comment: there are often times when you load the site and 6 of the first 8 stories are movie reviews. It certainly starts to look like a movie review blog then. At the very least you could spread them out to one every day or two.

Jason Sandford September 3, 2013 - 2:37 pm

Jacque, thanks for the feedback.

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