PLOT: Alicia (Juno Temple) is a fragile young woman, who comes to Chile to visit her cousin, Sarah (Emily Browning). After Sarah has to leave for an important exam, Alicia’s left alone with her friends, Agustin (Agustin Silva), Brink (Michael Cera) and Barbara (Catalina Sandino Moreno)- on a trip to remote part of the country. Alicia slowly begins to unravel…
REVIEW: MAGIC MAGIC is the second film from director Sebastian Silva to play this year’s edition of the Sundance Film Festival. Like CRYSTAL FAIRY, this features Michael Cera in an atypical role, here playing a deeply closeted tourist whose “gone native” in Chile. Unlike CRYSTAL FAIRY, which was a drug-fueled romp- played mostly for laughs, with a conclusion that was like a warm hug after a particularly intense trip, MAGIC MAGIC is all intensity- no relief. Of the two films, it’s easily my favorite- and one that I’m certain is going to win Silva a lot of stateside fans.
Cera’s mostly regulated to a supporting role here, with his Brink, however atypical, taking a backseat to the real heart of the story- which is Alicia’s descent into complete insanity. Whether or not any “magic magic” is involved is left entirely up the viewer- although one of the characters likes to experiment with a little hypnosis- so maybe there is some magic at play.
Juno Temple’s been popping up in a ton of movies lately, from KILLER JOE to a tiny part in THE DARK KNIGHT RISES. Alicia’s probably her juiciest role to date, as right from our introduction to her, where her jet-lagged tourist is immediately overwhelmed by Sarah’s friends, who are a tight clique- it’s clear she’s wound a little tight. Being left alone with them probably isn’t the best idea, but other than Moreno, who’s quickly established as a bitch, they don’t seem half bad. Even Cera’s Brink- who’s clearly gay, but awkwardly flirts with Alicia isn’t all bad, despite his attempts to overcompensate for the chip on his shoulder. Silva lets the tension build slowly, with nothing too horrific, or surprising happening until much later in the film. And when it does, don’t expect all out horror- as this opts for a mostly psychological, but still quite disturbing approach.
The last twenty minutes or so are particularly gripping, with Silva getting into a bit of Chilean voodoo- which is exceptionally well shot. While CRYSTAL FAIRY was simple, MAGIC MAGIC is highly stylized and gorgeous- not a surprise as this was shot by Christopher Doyle, who just might be the world’s greatest living cinematographer. Silva’s use of music is also exceptionally good, particularly Cab Calloway’s already creepy “Minnie the Moocher” which becomes a recurring motif.
All in all- I was surprised at what an effect MAGIC MAGIC ended up having on me, as I assumed it would be another jokey goof like CRYSTAL FAIRY (which was fine in its own right). MAGIC MAGIC is considerably better, and a unique take on the psychological horror genre. Sometime the scariest things are that which lurk within. This is something Silva seems to understand well. Sure- MAGIC MAGIC is not particularly scary, but it’s nerve-wracking, atmospheric and tense. It’s also very memorable, and something I found myself thinking a lot about in the days after watching it. Surely, that’s the mark of a really good movie.