SUNDANCE FILM FESTIVAL 2013
By Don Simpson | January 24, 2013
Director: Sebastián Silva
Writer: Sebastián Silva
Starring: Juno Temple, Emily Browning, Michael Cera, Catalina Sandino Moreno, Agustín Silva
What happens when a California girl is stranded in rural Chile without cell phone reception? She goes bat-shit crazy! Okay, well there is actually a little bit more to the story than that…
Alicia (Juno Temple) has arrived in Chile to hang out with her best friend Sarah (Emily Browning). Their plan is to head to a secluded island with Sarah’s Chilean boyfriend Agustín (Agustín Silva), his sister Barbara (Catalina Sandino Moreno) and his strange American friend Brink (Michael Cera). When Sarah must suddenly return home to Santiago for a “test,” Alicia finds herself stuck with three total strangers in a foreign country and she begins to freak out. Alicia does not speak Spanish, the language that her travelling companions naturally speak; Barbara is an cold and heartless bitch; Brink is eerily eccentric, to put it rather nicely; and even the local dog wants to make Alicia his bitch. In reality, it seems to be the lack of cell phone reception that really pushes Alicia over the edge. All she wants to do is phone Sarah, but they are totally cut off from each other. The two days that Sarah is away feels like an eternity to Alicia; she cannot sleep and her mental state deteriorates rapidly.
By the time Sarah does arrive on the island it is much too late for Alicia’s psyche. Alicia wanders around the island in a trance-like state which may have been induced by a layman’s hypnotism, a healthy dose of muscle relaxers or plain old lack of sleep. The nearest hospital is over five hours away, so Alicia’s only chance at overcoming her “illness” is a local non-western doctor.
Writer-director Sebastián Silva’s Magic Magic is a very difficult film to watch. Alicia, Barbara and Brink are all exasperatingly annoying, like nails on a chalkboard, but their characters effectively place the audience in Alicia’s neurotic head-space. We experience Barbara and Brink via Alicia’s warped perspective; all the while, Alicia’s constant whining, screaming and crying becomes increasingly unbearable. Juno Temple and Michael Cera’s performances are gleefully over-the-top; they grate on your nerves to excruciating proportions and make you hate their characters, but that is precisely the point. So, by the time the masterfully abrupt conclusion of Magic Magic rolls around, our brains are as warped and crazed as Alicia’s.
It is difficult not to view Magic Magic as a comment on American tourists: their unhealthy attachment to their smart phones; their reluctance to learn foreign languages; their over-reliance on pharmaceuticals; their fear of adventure; their fear of being alone; their fear of the “other.” Thankfully, not all Americans are like Alicia; some are more like Brink, which is not much better…