Crystal Fairy is the title of “the new Michael Cera film.” It’s a label that suggests at least a few things: shy and offbeat humour, the music of Kurt Vile, and the experience of being gently misunderstood.
In this film, Cera plays Jamie, a self-absorbed American expatriate living in Chile. Inspired by the writings of Aldous Huxley, Jamie sets out on a road trip with three Chilean friends to find a San Pedro cactus bearing the naturally occurring psychedelic mescaline. Before setting off, he meets Crystal Fairy (Gaby Hoffmann), a free spirited young woman who enjoys spiritual healing and sporadic nudity. After he unintentionally invites her along, Jamie becomes the most irritated out of anyone by Crystal’s unique behaviour.
Jamie and Crystal are the centre of attention throughout the movie; their Chilean companions are only there provide a backdrop of neutrality. The pair’s opposing worldviews affect the way each of them understands the purpose of the journey; Crystal wishes to commune with both the group and the natural landscape, while Jamie is so obsessed with having a drug experience that he is ignorant of everything around him. Both characters are painful to watch as they socialize. Fortunately, and perhaps too abruptly within the narrative, the power of mescaline allows Jamie to learn what empathy is, transforming him from a jerk into a regular person.
Regardless of Cera’s archetypal role in the film — perhaps as a representation of the crude American in foreign context, the entitled twenty-something’s egocentric search for fulfillment, or both — Hoffman steals the show with a fearless performance that ranges from obnoxious excess to profound vulnerability, gradually revealing Crystal’s humanity despite her initial outlandish actions.