Jamie (Michael Cera) is an American tourist travelling through Chile, mostly in search of the perfect high and the perfect surroundings to appreciate that best. Tonight he is at a party with a friend he has met there, and a chatterbox on the subject of drugs which he is all too pleased to see are very much part of the conversation, beginning with him seeking out the marijuana which meets with his approval, then the cocaine which does likewise. After a moment in the bathroom where he reaches a brief profundity with a Hieronymous Bosch print and a turd that won't flush, he proceeds to the living room only to be alarmed by a young woman's dancing...
That young woman calling herself Crystal Fairy, and played by Gaby Hoffman in a performance so uninhibited it alarmed more than the Jamie character, prompting more than one viewer to question what had happened to that cute girl they had seen in movies before this one. Whether she was being brave or truly didn't care, if you could see past her portrayal's lack of personal grooming then you had a really nice, slyly humorous rendering of a particular type of hippychick, one she played to the hilt and guaranteed to rub Jamie up the wrong way, which naturally made her even more humorous since Cera was also going out on a limb to essay an obnoxious personality.
He drove some audiences up the wall, but you could see his sense of humour peeking through as well as his "Ugly American", all selfish experience obsessing to the exclusion of all else, was at just enough of a remove to have us perceive him as a look askance at an individual sort of pretentious thrill-seeker. Not one who would take a trip to a rollercoaster, but one who would prefer to open the doors of perception for a different trip entirely (it's clear he knows his Aldous Huxley, which comes as no surprise), and that means one thing: drugs and plenty of them. When we meet Jamie he is dead set on getting his mitts on a San Pedro cactus since he has learned cooking up one of those is a certain method of getting an excellent high, and he knows he's in the right place.
Unfortunately for him, a person for whom things have to be just so or his day is ruined, he accidentally gives his phone number to Crystal Fairy and she calls him while he's on his way to his preferred location to tell him she's going to meet him there. That's all he needs, but he has three brothers, actually the brothers of the director Sebastián Silva, who are accompanying him, who are keen to experiment and friendly enough to assist him in his quest. They regard these two Americans with bemusement, which may well be how Silva regards them as his film was based on a real experience he had - yes, there's a genuine Crystal Fairy wandering the wide world - and there was a sense of authenticity to even the more outlandish aspects, drawn from strong characters.
Or strong enough to bear the load of a seemingly semi-improvised movie, as rather than a clear plot this was more of a ramble, fittingly enough when you saw the loose approach to relating that story. So loose in fact that it was difficult to tell if Silva was sending up his characters or had any emotional investment in them: from Jamie stealing part of a cactus from a lonely woman's front garden to Crystal Fairy's big revelations at the campfire scene which ends the movie (aside from a short final sequence which leaves us deliberately hanging), how seriously you were meant to take them was very much up to you. Considering the Chilean characters were more sensible than the Americans, and that this was a Chilean film anyway, you could understand this was very much seeing the sort of people who would be the leads in a touristy Hollywood flick as outsiders and figures, if not of ridicule, then of a querying nature, whether it was Hoffman spending stretches of this very naked or Cera apparently unbothered if we found him entertaining or not. Music by Pedro Subercaseaux.