Magic Magic (2013), from the director Sebastian Silva, departs from the typical blockbuster movie. It’s not a commercial one, neither Magic Magic pretends to be a simple entertainment product, despite a cast of actresses already known to worldwide audience: Emily Browning (who had the lead role in Sucker Punch by Zack Snyder, speaking about blockbusters…) and Juno Temple, who gave birth to an excellent performance in Killer Joe by William Friedkin.
So, we have such young (and good) actresses, supported by Michael Cera and Augustin Silva, who fully adhere to their characters, and the outcome is a creepy and disturbing show.
The scene is set in Chile, a misty land under a sickly sun, constantly marked by the hollo of countless parrots. The main character, Alicia (Juno Temple), is a student from California on vacation.
The beginning of Magic Magic, even by the title itself, can remember dozens of identical opening scenes, those teen comedies built on gross humour and a bunch of stupid guys. On the contrary, the ambition of Silva is to describe a psychic breakdown, Alicia’s one.
The movie then reveals itself being a descent into madness. We don’t know the causes of Alicia’s illness, nor the director suggests anyone. What we are allowed to know is that Alicia is a very shy and lonely girl, at the edge of pathological, and that the journey and the environment, and the people who surround her, slowly produce on her mind the effect of a huge tidal wave.
The collapse begins with psychic disorders: insomnia, visual hallucinations. But briefly those disturbs move into paranoia.
Silva manages to create tension. He creates tension and hope in the audience, despite he merely shows us simple daily life scenes, so simple how can be those of a group of teenagers, college students, on vacation on their own.
Silva also puts on the screen a cultural clash, the American and Chilean ways of life. He supports none of them: he puts them face to face, in an attempt to coexist. The conflict so generated is inevitable.
And going back to Alicia, interesting is the ambiguity which surrounds her, ambiguity strengthened by the excellent acting proof by Juno Temple who just likes to be Alicia; she becomes really unpleasant, whiny, hateful, just as Alicia has to be.
It’s so difficult to build a ninety-minute movie around a distasteful character. Yet Silva succeeds in doing that.
To most people, Magic Magic will be boring, quiet, and really slow. A certain kind of cinema has to be that way, however.
Intriguing movie, then, but suitable for a very few people.