by Nick Schager, published on May 8, 2008|
Director Bruce McDonald splits his screen eight ways to Sunday in The Tracey Fragments, a splintered form ostensibly intended to match the psyche of his protagonist, a screwed-up teenager named Tracey Berkowtiz (Ellen Page) who, at outset, is wrapped in a shower curtain while sitting on a city bus. Yet as the story slowly and non-chronologically reveals the events that led Tracey to her current circumstances, this stylistic tactic quickly comes to seem like a smokescreen aimed at obscuring the film's narrative slimness and psychological shallowness. Mundane incidents are presented from different and/or alternate perspectives that offer scant insight into her predicament, so that, for example, Tracey isfor no appreciable reasonsimultaneously seen smiling at and ignoring a random, cackling elderly man on the bus. Clumsily externalizing the internal, McDonald pads out his 77-minute indie with symbolic imagery (crows, naked body parts, a shot of a closing door that, when tipped on its side, resembles a closing coffin) and some rock-video fantasy interludes in which Tracey imagines herself as the girlfriend of new classmate Billy Zero (SlimTwig). These elements, as well as Tracey's pointless interactions with a cross-dressing psychiatrist (Julian Richings), all contribute to a collage structure that strains for expressionistic profundity but, because Tracey's distress never seems to warrant such aggressively schizo treatment, amounts to simply avant-garde fiddling. Playing a character whose hang-ups have textbook root causes (dysfunctional parents, school bullies), and whose quest to locate brother Sonny (Zie Souwand) is rambling and insipid, Page nonetheless does her best to deliver a focused portrait of adolescent turmoil. It's a futile effort, though, as writer Maureen Medved regularly undercuts her protagonist's intense disorientation by saddling her with Juno-esque quips ("Happy people, they friggin' depress me, you know?") that even Pageby virtue of her ho-hum deliveryseems to find lame.
Rating: 1,5 out of 4