Crystal Fairy & the Magical Cactus ★★★★

Michael Cera plays a legendary self-absorbed asshole, but the biggest accomplishment of his performance – and of the movie – is the way that his character transforms, without moving a muscle, from almost unwatchably insufferable to uncomfortably recognizable. The key is the dawning realization of how genuinely important the hunt for the hallucinogenic cactus is to this guy – not as some sort of brass ring or poseurish hipster status symbol, but as an experience that he truly wants to have. And haven’t you ever unleashed your inner control freak – and risked looking ridiculous or mean – when faced with something risky and fragile that you really truly want and that well-intentioned others might jeopardize if you’re not vigilant? This unexpectedly warm, charitable film suggests that people’s annoying quirks and hang-ups often come from a fundamentally good place, and should be treated accordingly. It also pulls off the truly impressive feat of conveying an acid trip without the use of animation or lame visual effects. The ending is more cryptic than necessary, but that’s basically my only reservation here; rating might well go up on second viewing.