DVD Review: Juno Temple Delivers Tour De Force in ‘Magic Magic’

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Average: 5 (2 votes)

CHICAGO – I suppose it was only a matter of time before Sebastián Silva delved into the brooding waters of psychodrama. There are countless moments in his previous pictures—from Catalina Saavedra’s piercing Bette Davis stare in “The Maid” to Michael Cera’s hallucinogenic agony in “Crystal Fairy”—that threaten to spiral into horrifying derangement.

How sad that Silva’s meticulously executed, visually stunning “Magic Magic” has been dumped on DVD by the unfeeling hands of Sony, while the director’s inferior “Crystal Fairy” scored a limited theatrical release. Not only is “Magic” an exponentially better film than “Fairy,” it’s also one of the most gripping portraits of a psychological meltdown in recent memory (it would’ve made a fine big screen double bill with Woody Allen’s “Blue Jasmine”). Relegating any film co-lensed by Christopher Doyle (“In the Mood for Love”) to a small screen premiere is a cinematic crime of the most shameful variety.

HollywoodChicago.com DVD Rating: 4.0/5.0
DVD Rating: 4.0/5.0

Juno Temple delivers her most electrifying performance to date as a wide-eyed American tourist, Alicia, whose sanity is on the verge of fracturing while on vacation in Chile. Stranded by her friend, Sarah (Emily Browning), in a house inhabited by three seemingly unsavory “buddies,” Alicia’s insecurity shoots through the roof, and is further heightened by the ever-present, insomnia-inducing chirps of birds out her window. The abundance of avian imagery is reminiscent of Hitchcock’s “Psycho,” as is Michael Cera’s startlingly effective turn as Brink, a closeted sadist whose heterosexual posturing is by turns nasty and frightening. With his angular face topped by dark, unkempt hair, Brink resembles the long lost kid brother of Norman Bates, though he’s only one ingredient in the film’s tantalizing brew of malice. Catalina Sandino Moreno is also chillingly good as Barbara, another uninviting inhabitant of the house who makes no attempt to mask her hostility toward white people, and their impact on her indigenous community. The masterful cinematography by Doyle and Glenn Kaplan finds subtle ways to amp up the unease, such as portraying Alicia’s paranoid visions in blurred background shots. The repeated use of “Minnie the Moocher” is also terrifically unsettling, allowing the tune’s relentless rhythm and scorching brass riffs to register as malevolent.

Magic Magic was released on DVD on August 6th, 2013.
Magic Magic was released on DVD on August 6th, 2013.
Photo credit: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

Viewers expecting the film to unfold as a blood-soaked thriller will be mightily disappointed by Silva’s nuanced portrait of a troubled mind’s tailspin into madness. What begins as a giddily unsettling curiosity ultimately emerges as a tragic, wrenchingly visceral meditation on the horrors of mental illness. Temple’s shatteringly vulnerable work grounds the film even in its problematic final act, while Cera’s revelatory turn provides undeniable proof of his versatility. This film deserved better. A lot better.
“Magic Magic” is presented in its 2.40:1 aspect ratio, accompanied by English, French, Portuguese and Spanish subtitles, and includes an insufficient 16-minute making-of featurette that skims the surface of the film’s most intriguing behind-the-scenes tidbits, such as how Cera spent three months living with Silva’s family prior to shooting. Doyle is conspicuously left out of the interview soundbites, and is merely glimpsed at from a distance while Silva affectionately refers to him as an “a—hole.” Clearly, there’s a much more fascinating documentary that could’ve been made about this exceedingly unusual production.

‘Magic Magic’ is released by Sony Pictures Home Entertainment and stars Juno Temple, Emily Browning, Michael Cera, Catalina Sandino Moreno and Agustín Silva. It was written and directed by Sebastián Silva. It was released on DVD on August 6th, 2013. It is rated R.

HollywoodChicago.com staff writer Matt Fagerholm

Staff Writer

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