By Maggie Lange | Thompson on Hollywood November 29, 2013 at 1:48PM
"Crystal Fairy," which recently scored Indie Spirit nominations for the John Cassavettes Award and Best Female Lead (Gaby Hoffmann), was written and filmed while director Sebastian Silva and Michael Cera were in Chile waiting for production of their film "Magic Magic" to continue. A film of spontaneous perfection was born. It is not neat but it seems to be driven from a genuine impulse. Because it's 2013, this spontaneity comes with a healthy dose of irony and cynicism, but the film moves from flashes of heartfelt despair to abounding joy and back again.
In one of the first scenes, Cera's drug-obsessed hipster Jamie watches a stupidly cerebral hippy (Gabby Hoffmann) dancing by herself in a cramped apartment party in Chile. She's flailing her limbs, wild hair flying, seemingly unaware of rhythm or surrounding objects. Snidely to a friend, he calls her a "lonely tornado." Then, ostensibly to get closer to the train wreck, he decides to join her, and learns that she calls herself Crystal Fairy. He ends up inviting her to join him and his Chilean roommate to travel to a beach to ingest a hallucinogenic cactus. Much to his bewilderment, she accepts the invitation.
While both of these characters are equally obnoxious, they are the most fascinating and annoying characterizations of tourists I've ever seen—young hip examples of something David Foster Wallace described perfectly, tourists who are there to "to spoil, by way of sheer ontology, the very unspoiledness you are there to experience."
Both actors give little concern to vanity; they plunge into rude, grating habits that are compelling to watch because they really prickle. Hoffmann particularly gives a brave performance—nudity only partially aside, her emotional vulnerability is pungent.
Written in ten days, this witty and hilarious film is based on Silva's experience with a young woman who actually called herself Crystal Fairy. Director Silva's comedic timing is superb, as is the cast which includes his brothers as sidekicks on the road-drug-trip— the entire Silva family seems to be gifted with comedy.
You sense that these few days will turn out to be a keystone moment for the characters. We're given intimate flashes into how these personalities change and grow in a lovely and unexpected way. While Jamie and Crystal Fairy were initially drawn to one another to point out each other's flaws, they ultimately find solace in twisting together as lonely tornadoes.