Directed by Sebastián Silva
Written by Sebastián Silva
Sundance alum Sebastián Silva (The Maid, Old Cats) returns to this year’s festival with two offerings, each as similar as they are different. Magic Magic, Silva’s entry into the genre oriented Midnight category, revolves around an ill-fated road trip to a remote location off the coast of Chile. Along the way reluctant tag along Alicia (Juno Temple), begins a decent into hysteria, and unfortunately for her, when her companions aren’t fueling her sleep deprived paranoia, they’re generally ignoring her pleas for help.
Temple channels her inner damsel in distress, in a harrowing and skin-crawling performance, as the off kilter Alicia. Silva stated during the Q&A that one of the ideas that intrigued him while writing the script was the horrific notion that a person with a propensity for schizophrenia, would go unnoticed in their time of need. Unfortunately, Alicia’s decent is neither all that abrupt nor is it as dizzying a spiral as it might be. From the first scenes, it is clear that Alicia is emotionally unstable, uptight, and frail, which is unfortunate because the role requires so much of Temple. Had their been more of an arch for the character, she might have been able to stretch her legs more in the role.
Adding to the uneven nature of Magic Magic are some eccentric and often downright odd directing and editing choices. These are more apparent in the film’s first few minutes, but they also diffuse some of the impact of the truly bizarre elements toward the film’s end.
Michael Cera is also entertaining in the aptly named role of Brink, Alicia’s prime tormentor (along with a horny dog), and the source of most of Magic Magic’s comic relief. Fans of Cera, as well as those that are beginning to fatigue from Cera’s overexposure as the lovable loser, will find a lot to like here, because while his performance is comedic in nature, there is a sinister, grotesque edge that adds a much needed facet to the film. Emily Browning, Catalina Sardino Moreno and Agustín Silva also turn in notable performances in supporting roles, but it’s Temple and Cera that really steal the show.
As a conceptual horror flick, Magic Magic may not always connect, but grounded by strong performances and a genuinely creepy aesthetic it offers a more than entertaining diversion from the typical blood and guts of the genre.
– Scott Colquitt
The Sundance Film Festival runs from January 17 to October 27, 2012. For a complete schedule of films, screening times, and ticket information, please visit the official website.