Michael Cera is a sexually degenerate cokehead. Or at least he is in the role of Michael Cera in Seth Rogen’s stone-cold hilarious This Is the End. In Crystal Fairy, offering laughs that run deadpan and mysteriously deep, Cera plays an American named Jamie, a sexually degenerate cokehead and all-around drug enthusiast on a road trip to Chile. In the Atacama desert, Jamie hopes to get his hands on the infamous San Pedro cactus, the source of a kind of mega-mescaline that will send him into hallucinatory heaven. It’s an odd quest since Jamie is an anal, controlling jerk whose narcissism and nervousness irritate the hell out of everyone he meets. Cera, still one of a kind and still making us love him for it (Arrested Development – yes!), never flinches. Jamie is impossible to like. And yet we do because Cera plays him without an ounce of bogus ingratiation. He’s terrific.
The movie is also one of a kind, the bizarro brainchild of Chilean writer-director Sebastian Silva (The Maid – if you haven’t seen it do so now, you can thank me later). Silva is clearly working out some of his own issues in this fish-out-of-water story. What passes for a plot involves the three locals who accompany Jamie on his quest. They’re played by the filmmaker’s brothers, Juan Andres Silva, Jose Miguel Silva and Agustin Silva. Before leaving for the desert, Jamie meets his match at a Santiago party in the person of an American hippy chick who calls herself Crystal Fairy. Gaby Hoffman, a former child actress (Sleepless in Seattle) and the daughter of Andy Warhol superstar Viva, handles the role with combustible humor and surprising tenderness. Hoffman and Cera are the oddest couple you’ll find this movie summer. But they get to you.
So does their crazyass movie. Silva never pushes his points, even when the cactus gets cooked and Crystal runs amok wearing only her shoes. Silva lets the movie wash over you until a beach campfire scene that turns a drug trip into personal catharsis. Silva does it the hard way. No Hollywood tricks up his sleeve. If there is such a thing as quiet rule-busting, Silva is a master of the craft. His trippy comic odyssey may not be for everyone. But Crystal Fairy gives off fumes that deliver a indisputable high.