The un­real deal

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - FILM - TARA BRADY


Di­rected by Se­bastián Silva. Star­ring Juno Tem­ple, Emily Brown­ing, Michael Cera, Catalina Sandino Moreno, Agustín Silva 15A cert, Triskel Christchur­ch, Cork; Light House, Dublin, 98 min Chilean di­rec­tor Se­bastián Silva pre­viewed two films fea­tur­ing Michael Cera at the 2013 Sun­dance Film Fes­ti­val. Both show­case the Amer­i­can ac­tor’s com­mend­able ca­pac­ity for self-dep­re­ca­tion. In Crys­tal Fairy he plays a jerk dis­com­fited by the pres­ence of Gaby Hoff­mann on a Chilean road trip; in Magic Magic he plays a jerk dis­com­fited by the pres­ence of Juno Tem­ple on a Chilean road trip.

The films – and Cera’s jerks – could not be more con­trast­ing. Crys­tal Fairy was a com­edy with a sin­is­ter se­cret. Magic Magic is a sin­is­ter psy­chodrama with an un­set­tling sense of hu­mour.

The film casts Tem­ple as Ali­cia, a shaky, vul­ner­a­ble Amer­i­can vis­it­ing her cousin Sarah (Emily Brown­ing) in Chile. At least that was the plan. Sarah quickly leaves our jumpy hero­ine to ex­pe­ri­ence a hellish road trip with three cal­lous com­pan­ions: mock­ing Agustin (Agustín Silva), dis­dain­ful Bar­bara (Catalina Sandino Moreno) and weird Brick (Cera).

Cab Cal­loway’s Min­nie the Moocher plays on a loop as the hor­ri­ble trio squab­ble over a puppy who they briefly adopt be­fore aban­don­ing the crea­ture by a road­side. Brick later laughs as he shoots a par­rot. Or does he?

Al­though the film never gets as in­te­rior as Polan­ski’s Re­pul­sion, there are clues from the get-go that the sleep-de­prived Ali­cia is delu­sional. Co-cin­e­matog­ra­phers Christo­pher Doyle and Glenn Ka­plan add som­nam­bu­list notes with hypnotic cam­era work that seems to stare out be­yond the sur­face com­po­si­tion.

Tem­ple made her name as Amer­i­can cin­ema’s skank par ex­cel­lence (see Ka­boom, Killer Joe, Af­ter­noon De­light), but there’s some­thing of an EM Forster hero­ine in her por­trayal of mount­ing dis­tress. Brick’s end­lessly in­ap­pro­pri­ate sex­ual ref­er­ences both repulse and ter­rify the girl. As her mind be­comes in­creas­ingly frac­tured, that sub­text comes to the fore.

Tem­ple is a stand­out, but all the play­ers all do great work. And Magic Magic’s odd de­noue­ment is a dra­matic curve­ball that smacks the viewer square in the face.

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