When a star gets sick of their own public image, strange and fascinating things can happen. Clearly fed up with playing the dweeby nice guy, ‘Juno’ and ‘Superbad’ star Michael Cera takes on a far more surly, difficult role, as second fiddle to the truly impressive Juno Temple in this flawed but atmospheric Chile-set psychodrama. What the film does spectacularly well is capture that unsettling pit-of-the-stomach sense of being marooned and jet-lagged in a foreign country, as Temple’s troubled innocent Alicia arrives in Chile to visit her cousin Sarah (Emily Browning). Whisked off to a remote island with Sarah’s friends – including a bordering-on-grotesque Cera – Alicia is unable to shake the feeling of disconnect.
The first half of ‘Magic Magic’ is greatly enjoyable: the performances are strong, the photography by Christopher Doyle is crisp and immersive, and the mood is ripe and ominous. Sadly, director Sebastián Silva isn’t sure where to take his characters, and the film falls to bits right when the screws should be tightening. Interesting, nonetheless.