Stars: Michael Cera, Juno Temple, Emily Browning, Catalina Sandino Moreno, Agustín Silva, Luis Dubó, Roxana Naranjo, Lorenza Aillapán, John Carlos Huenchunao, Rayén Aliquintuy | Written and Directed by Sebastian Silva
Chilean director, Sebastian Silva, the man responsible for the bizarre Michael Cera fronted Crystal Fairy & the Magical Cactus (2013), made another film in 2013, and that film also starred Michael Cera. Magic Magic is that film.
A thriller with elements of horror and a surreal tone that runs throughout the film’s 97 minute running time, Magic Magic is an unusual little movie that will appeal to some and also piss a lot of people off.
Juno Temple (Killer Joe) plays Alicia, a young American girl who takes a trip to Chile with her cousin, Sarah, played by Emily Browning (Sleeping Beauty, Sucker Punch). Sarah and Alicia, along with three of Sarah’s friends, go to a remote island to stay in a cabin. Familiar horror territory, the film manages to avoid clique for the most part and uses the desolate setting to create tension. Sarah’s friends seem a little unwelcoming to Alicia, except for Brink, a touchy-feely and socially awkward Michael Cera, who appears a little strange. Sarah suddenly leaves for a couple of days because of an emergency and leaves Alicia with her friends, though Alicia is against the idea. We are then witness to a series of scenarios involving Alicia that reveal her to be troubled in many ways and intimidated by the people she finds herself living with. Sarah’s friends, who also include Agustin (Agustin Silva) and Barbara (Catalina Sandino Moreno), speak in Spanish to one another much of the time, causing Alicia to feel excluded.
It is a weird movie that often seems to ask questions that it never answers, but it is an interesting one. Temple does a great job as Alicia and her portrayal of fear and madness is well done. Browning is fine, but has little work with, and Cera, the childish and unusual Brink, shows something different from his usual comedic roles, though at times he still appears too animated and not subtle enough to bring any sinister feel to his character. The script is thin, and the dialogue is definitely lacking, which is one of the big downfalls of the film. It often feels like ideas were never fully completed and the characters seem very dull and one dimensional in scenes of conversation. The effective side of the film comes with its cinematography and its atmosphere. We wonder, for most of the movie, what is going on with Alicia and why she is acting the way that she is. This is what drives the film and is the reason, as it proceeds, that we are watching. The pay-off is what we are waiting for, and sadly, without spoiling any of the conclusions or occurrences, it does not live up to its self-created hype. The end of the film feels cowardly and awkward though I’m sure some people might enjoy it, I personally didn’t.
Temple steals the show here, it is fairly easy to say, and her performance makes it worth watching this film to a degree, but with a story lacking in definitive actions and characters that often feel way too bland, Magic Magic falls into the “not bad, I guess” category of thrillers to hit our screens in recent years. It does have elements of horror and a surreal art-house coating, but in the end it is just a passable dark tale of madness and paranoia set in a strange unknown place.
The DVD, released through Koch Media, had a cool cover and slipcase, but is beyond weak otherwise. Besides the film there is nothing, not even a trailer, to be seen. There is no reason other than the film itself to buy this, and I would recommend renting or waiting for it to be available on Netflix streaming first.
Magic Magic is available on DVD, from Koch Media, now.