Mescaline is a psychoactive substance that has been used by humans for more than 5,000 years. Native to Chile, the San Pedro cactus is one of the few sources of mescaline in the world. Crystal Fairy is in part a movie about this cactus.
Crystal Fairy follows the standard equation of a late summer flick. There is the ease (and angst) of making new friends, the beauty and magic of exploring the outdoors and, of course, youthful self-discovery. What makes this independent movie special is the ability of the writer-director, Sebastian Silva to capture the struggle between the two main characters' opposing yet parallel personalities with a backdrop of three kind Chilean brothers facilitating the two of them. It plays out almost as a metaphor for the failures of Western imperialism—but with drugs, sex jokes, and a beach party.
Jamie, played by Michael Cera, is a young American in Chile on a mission to find San Pedro after reading Aldous Huxley's The Doors of Perception. From the first scene of Cera doing blow at a party, you know you're in for a wonderful love/hate relationship with his character. Jamie oozes the naïve self-entitlement of a New England liberal arts student; always on offense in order to guard his emotions, he seems on the verge of a hissy fit throughout the movie.
Alternatively, Crystal Fairy, played by Gaby Hoffman, is a vision of an unkempt Frida Kahlo on a New Age kick. She carries chakra crystals with her, obsessively draws pictures of fairies, and emits the pheromone of eternal love with a dash of passive aggression. She is a matriarch through and through.
While high on cocaine at a party, Jamie invites Crystal Fairy on a road trip set for the next day to find and take San Pedro in a rural coastal village. The free spirit that she is, Crystal Fairy readily accepts.
What follows is a beautiful piece on vulnerability. The plot moves quickly, yet it seems like a guiltily pleasurable eternity, scene by scene, as negative tension mounts between Jamie and Crystal Fairy. The two are in a continual psychic battle for top dog ego while their three Chilean companions (all played by relatives of Silva) shepherd them through the journey with compassion, annoyance and confusion.
The movie is an aesthetic masterpiece. Much of the film is beautifully shot in a rare ecosystem and geologic formation, and for this alone it is a pleasure to view. Add to this the dry humor and tension of two very protective characters on the verge of having their hard exteriors cracked, and an engrossing film emerges.
Dir. Sebastian Silva
Showing Through September 8
Tin Pan Theater, 869 NW Tin Pan Alley