by Chris Cabin, published on July 8, 2008|
Jason Reitman's Juno did amazing business, turned Ellen Page into an overnight phenomenon and gave people (including this reviewer) an excuse to refer to their significant others as "the cheese to my macaroni." From such a place comes Bruce McDonald's The Tracey Fragments. Arty to the nth degree, splintered and, yes, fragmented, this micro-indie gives carte blanche to Page again as Tracey Berkowitz, a cerebrally-addled teen who roams the streets and city buses of Ontario in the hopes of finding her missing younger brother Sonny, who has been hypnotized into believing he is a dog. Keane, it is not.
Though fitfully discombobulated, the song remains the same. Tracey's parents are two hyper-depressed louts who scream, bicker, and wonder why their daughter can't be just a normal happy teenager. Tracey's boyfriend is Billy Zero, a botched attempt at fertilizing Morrisey's eggs with Gary Numan's seed. Tracey has flourishes of fantasia that paint Billy and her as the leaders of an almost-listenable punk band called Teenage Pussy that gets Album of the Year from Mojo magazine. She has a female psychiatrist that faintly resembles the Screaming Man from Guillermo del Toro's Pan's Labyrinth, and her entire school thinks it's a real riot that she has small boobs. Where am I?
Adapting the screenplay from her novel of the same name, Maureen Medved gives Page some awfully well-worn pieces of dime-store philosophy to spew up. If "When things happen to people, they radiate a light" doesn't grab you, just wait for the bits about how eating glue will turn your children into horses and how consuming honey is basically an act of cannibalism. For what it's worth, however, these shards of art-school poetry fit into the palette: If any attempt at natural dialogue had been made, this would have been a real disaster.
Shot in McDonald's native Ontario and originally released in Canada last November, The Tracey Fragments is an Ellen Page showcase that looks strange enough to almost be something more. Random shots of a cheap necklace, toy horses, and a tiny noose are all well and good, but their randomness seems unable to conjure up any feeling except that of "dude, this is totally random". The imagery is self-conscious chic enough to be noticeable but is unable to cull together meaning or even merry bewilderment.
But as previously mentioned, this is all Ellen Page through the Bruce McDonald filter and she has an uncommon performer's energy. Her mumbling tirades teeter on the ledge between agony and cynicism without falling into either category. And though Tracey and Juno are about the same age with not-completely-different dispositions, Page makes them separate entities (save for one instance when she summons the number "forty kadrillion" out of thin air). The Tracey Fragments serves to show that Page isn't scared to go outside the "safety" of Juno and though I was already convinced of that (see Hard Candy), Fragments is not without its minor merits.
The DVD includes interviews with McDonald and Page, plus the winner and other entries into the "Tracey: Re-Fragmented" contest.
Rating: 2 out of 5