It’s easy to think like a transcendentalist, bound by the shackles of a controlling humanity. We’re people dammit! We’re not meant to be sitting in generic cubicles, pecking away at keyboards like slaves only to make some company boatloads of money (which a majority of the population will never see). Humans at our most animalistic should be free-roaming beings embracing all the wonders of life, living our lives with vigor, passion, love, and wild abandon. There has to be more to life, and those thinkers will do anything to find it. It’s ideals like those that Sebastián Silva explores in Crystal Fairy, along with the walls we hide behind – blaming others for our own struggles with inner insecurities.
At the center of our journey is Michael Cera, playing a tightly-wound American (Jamie) visiting Chile. He parties, does drugs, acts a little up-tight, tries to be cooler than he is – but you can tell there’s something deeper. Obsessing over getting psychedelically high off of the juices of a San Pedro cactus, Jamie excitedly thinks about the road trip he’s scheduled with a Chilean friend (and two more travelers) which will end with a ceremonial drinking of the San Pedro on a deserted beach. The night before though, Jamie is talking to a very eccentric girl named Crystal Fairy (Gaby Hoffmann), and in his heavily intoxicated stated, he invites the girl along. This escapes him until he sobers up the next day and Crystal calls him, ultimately leading to her inclusion on the trip. Four boys and one crazy hippie, what could go wrong?
For all those indie filmmaking fans out there, Crystal Fairy shines in all its quirky, gritty, genuine glory. Jamie isn’t exactly likable the entire film, Crystal isn’t exactly sane, and Jamie’s friends aren’t exactly Oscar winning actors – but it’s that sense of honest characterization that defines Silva’s film. Jamie’s friends especially, played by three lovable local boys, certainly don’t spout anything particularly profound, but their genuine reactions to both Jamie and Crystal are what humanizes them. Not every line out of a character’s mouth has to be some witty quip. Sometimes that doe-eyed look of bewilderment is enough to translate multiple layers of the current situation in a way the most eloquent Hollywood writer couldn’t script dialogue to match. This, accompanied by Crystal Fairy‘s wonderfully timed musical cues and sometimes grainy camera work, keep Silva’s film close enough to the ground for a strangely connective experience.
But with a character named Crystal Fairy and a film titled Crystal Fairy, you’d be right to assume actress Gaby Hoffmann is the central point of attention as she plays the titular mystical character. Crystal is a whimsical kind of nymph who despises any type of conformed societal jailing, bothers Jaime with her open-minded thinking, ignores clothing boundaries, and embraces a more spiritually enhanced lifestyle. Crystal is a tree-hugger times one million, believing in a life of blatant honesty, connection to one’s inner spirit, and leading of a completely enlightened existence. In essence, she represents the perfect opposition for the more shielded and repressed Jaime. Their chemistry is wonderful and the dynamic relationship they create perfectly explains the errors in both their ways, because neither are completely wrong or right. For as indie as Crystal Fairy is, Silva’s story still recognizes Crystal’s lifestyle has imperfections, highlighted by realizations that even though she projects herself as an unchained spirit, she might not be as drastically different than Jamie as she’d hoped.
Give credit where credit is due though, because Crystal Fairy has an easy shot to go down as one of 2013’s most memorable characters. We’ve seen plenty of dream-chasing hippies on screen over the years, but Gaby Hoffmann’s performance can’t be described without using the words fearless, reckless, passionate, mesmerizing, and downright showstopping. The entirety of Silva’s film rested on the shoulders of whoever played Crystal Fairy, and this special actress embraced every strand of armpit hair, every minute of full-frontal nudity, every transcendental line – Hoffmann turns Crystal Fairy into a motif more than a character. Gaby Hoffmann deserves a tremendous round-of-applause for putting herself in extremely uncomfortable situations all in art’s name, as she absolutely perfected the gutsy and revealing tones Independent cinema strives to achieve.
Don’t get me wrong, Cera is no joke either, but we already knew this awkward-embracing actor was perfect for Independent cinema. He’s made a living playing roles like this, being the one character who stands out against a typically uniform group, but he does it so well you can’t really fault him. He gets a little more freedom to have a meaner side in Crystal Fairy, but still delivers more of what we’re used to – which he does well, so I’m not complaining.
Crystal Fairy starts as a road trip with an unwanted passenger, but ends as an adventure of psychedelic self-discovery full of wisdom, revelations, highs, and lows. Is it better to bottle your emotions, put on a facade, display your insecurities, and be someone you’re not? Or is adapting a care-free lifestyle of love, happiness, ultimate freedom, and natural beauty how we’re meant to live. Truthfully, I believe it’s a mixture of both, but I’m sure Crystal Fairy would fight me on that. Either way, there’s a beautiful message found in Sebastián Silva’s work, and the journey that takes you there is certainly a remarkable experience.
Gaby Hoffmann attacks the character of Crystal Fairy with wild abandon, vigor, and tons of emotional investment - all solidifying her as one of the most interesting on-screen personalities to appear this year.