by Bill Chambers, published on September 20, 2008|
When I say that The Tracey Fragments applies the Tarnation method to fiction filmmaking, I say it exasperated with the whole Pied Piper mentality that follows any aesthetic innovation. I admire Tarnation, don't misunderstand, but a big part of that admiration rests in the picture's total invention and definitive application of a form that fits its function. Unfortunately, for every E.T., there's a Mac and Me--and for every original like Jonathan Caouette there's a dilettante-in-waiting like Bruce McDonald. The Canadian Kevin Smith, McDonald burrows into Tarnation like a tapeworm to nourish this anaemic faux-diary of a would-be runaway. Ellen Page is predictably dynamic in the title role, but in all honesty, I'm already sick of her coy nymphet routine, and there's no real relief from it here; you can't shake the feeling that Page, twenty years old offscreen, is condescending to the character, a late-bloomer who lives in her head. If you stop and think about it, The Tracey Fragments' tacit correlation of Tracey's demons with Caouette's--far fewer of which are imagined or self-created--is at best clueless and at worst downright offensive. Gay men are not teenage girls! (Consider how superficial are the similarities between Tracey's and Jonathan's mutual retreat into fantasy realms dominated by pop-cultural signposts: Tracey has Rupert Pupkin-esque skylarks about people falling down to worship her, whereas Jonathan mainly seeks catharsis by placing himself in the shoes of other lost souls.) I did find it interesting that only women left my screening early, though I suspect this was just a coincidence: even with the film's scant running time of 77 minutes, the unrelenting use of splitscreen is bound to give anyone a headache.
Rating: 1/2* out of four