Director Sebastián Silva has just recently made two films both featuring Michael Cera in polarizing roles from what we are accustomed to from his one-track oeuvre. Magic Magic is one of those films, but do not be fooled for he is a supporting cast in the glorious unhinged insanity that ensues.
Perhaps I am being facetious to suggest that Magic Magic is some sort of crazy thrill ride. It isn’t. What it is however is a slow burning descent into madness. The always fascinating Juno Temple plays Alicia, the cousin of Sarah (Emily Browning) who visits her in Chile and meets her strange friends who she is stuck with in a holiday home on a remote island after Sarah has to leave. What happens next is Alicia’s slow transformation into a paranoid, delusional and unstable crazy person. This arc happens gradually and intelligently, spawned by the male presence (and gaze) and the isolation that stems from the wild nature, flora and fauna around her, particularly birds which can be heard and seen in almost every scene.
The cinematography from Christopher Doyle highlights not only the rough nature of the island, but also Alicia’s world-view which increasingly narrows. To ground proceedings however we also get the other characters points of view. This includes a shut-in student Barbara who gets increasingly hostile towards Alicia, Brink (Michael Cera) an antisocial horny erratic extrovert where a lot of the comedy (intentional or otherwise) comes from. Finally there is Agustin, the charismatic male lead of the group and Sarah’s boyfriend.
Initially Alicia is stuck with them and she cannot tolerate Brink’s behavior which turns from flirty to something slightly less acceptable. Although they have no preconceptions the film turns on them and you begin to feel Alicia’s fear of these relatively harmless people. Some key scenes, including a shocking hypnotism attest to this.
When Sarah does arrive she brings some much needed balance to the film. Unaffected by the cabin fever of the other characters, she is the voice of reason, bringing Alicia back to rights, but is it too late, and what is she hiding?
Magic Magic is such a fascinating film, it draws comparisons to the slow burning madness of other films such as Rosemary’s Baby but I saw a lot of von Trier in it. Like an alternative reality Antichrist, Alicia lashes out like the woman in that does, pushed by outside forces, nature and gender.
The film concludes brilliantly suggesting something else is also at play, ultimately leaving it up to the gaze of the spectator to decide.
Kwenton Bellette - follow Kwenton on Twitter here: @Kwenton