Sebastián Silva got off to a quick start with movie industry success (which, in this case, refers to recognition as opposed to financial gain). His 2009 film, The Maid, received plenty of critical accolades, allowing Silva to continue creating movies with artistic freedom. Crystal Fairy (or, as its alternately known Crystal Fairy & The Magical Cactus and 2012) is a mythical, spiritual, intellectual tale that follows an unapologetic gringo named Jamie (Cera) and his band of Chilean friends as they seek the hallucinogenic nectar of the San Pedro cactus. Along the way, they are distracted by a spirited woman by the name of Crystal Fairy (the much under appreciated Gaby Hoffman) who enhances their journey without them truly realizing it until it's all over.
Crystal Fairy floats into Jamie and his friend Champa's (Juan Andres Silva) life at a party where she's seen prancing around in what Jamie dubs to be an embarrassing fashion. Coked out enough to approach her, he tells Champa that he feels compelled to help her stop humiliating herself. At first uncertain of her heritage (due to her dark features and thick hair--later a characteristic that garners her the name "Crystal Hairy"), Jamie is surprised to learn that Crystal Fairy is an American. Feeling an inexplicable sense of camaraderie in his drug-addled state, Jamie invites Crystal on his quest to find the fabled San Pedro cactus, a glorious plant filled with pure, potent mescaline (so of course it's outlawed in the U.S.).
The next day when Crystal calls up Jamie to take him up on his offer, he is slightly hazy on the details of ever having met her. Champa and his brothers, Pilo (Agustin Silva) and Lel (Jose Miguel Silva), however, are more than open to the notion of meeting Crystal in the town square where she says she'll be. When they come across her, she's in the midst of an argument with a group of cutthroat Chilean women after she tries to pay for something with a drawing. Jamie, already vexed by her slowing them down, is immediately offput by not only the drama Crystal causes, but her New Age/hippie persona. Only later does he comprehend that this over-the-top version of herself is a defense mechanism she uses against her past.
As the trip progresses and their hunt for a cactus intensifies, Jamie--called "the Pollo" by the band of brothers he's with--only grows more irritated by what he views as Crystal's crackpot theories and sentiments slowing them down. From helping to purge their chakras to walking around in front of them naked, Crystal upsets the balance of what Jamie had in mind for the trip in many different ways. It isn't until they actually head to a deserted beach to enjoy the fruits of their beloved plant that Jamie finally begins to appreciate Crystal.
Shot in a method that calls just enough attention to its low-budget nature, there is something about Crystal Fairy (both the film and the person) that keeps you captivated throughout--even though, for the most part, very little is actually happening. Perhaps this is because Silva based Crystal on someone inspirational from his own life, a woman who barely graced it, yet influenced him profoundly. In an interview with Movieline, Hoffman noted:
"There were biographical things about her that he told me. You know, he’d actually had this experience with this woman, so, I don’t want to reveal too much, but elements of the character, like the story she tells at the end, are factual. But, for me, it was more about taking those facts and making her dynamic instead of one-dimensional and cliché, which she could easily have been."
Among other life imitating art factors in Crystal Fairy is the fact that the actors were legitimately tripping on mescaline during the filming of the movie. This detail shines through minimally on film, and perhaps because the performances are so understated, you realize that the experience of and the rapport between the actors is real. In blurring the lines (goddammit, Robin Thicke) between where the acting begins and the improvisation ends, it makes sense that Crystal Fairy would be the project to reignite Hoffman's interest in acting and offer Silva a chance to pay homage to someone significant in his life.