MONKEY REVIEW: The Tracey Fragments

July 10, 2008

traceyfragments“When things happen to people, they radiate a light. Because they have a picture caught inside them. Because they were there and you weren’t. And because you only got a piece. And because all you can do is shrink and blow up that one tiny piece.”

Directed by Bruce McDonald and adapted by Maureen Medved from her novel, The Tracey Fragments uses split screens to convey the fragmented consciousness of its traumatized and guilt-ridden 15 year old protagonist (Ellen Page), who is first seen wrapped in a shower curtain riding the back of a bus in Winnipeg, searching for her missing 9 year old brother. Though split screens originally became popular in slick 60’s Hollywood films like The Thomas Crown Affair, they are probably now mostly associated with the TV thriller 24. In this movie, however, they are used in a self-consciously arty fashion as a means of opening up Tracey’s racing thoughts to audience as she reviews the events of the past couple of days in a disjointed, distorted and non-linear fashion, true to how many people might think about these things, especially under extreme duress. The story itself is simple to the point of being a bit threadbare, but then the movie is more about the manner in which Tracey responds to the events, rather than about the events themselves. Towards this end, the movie is intermittently successful, sometimes funny, sometimes deeply affecting, with a lot of the credit going to Page, who works hard to transform a character that’s largely unlikeable in the state that she’s in into someone sympathetic. The movie’s style often overwhelms her performance, however, burying it in a flurry of screens, which can number up to twenty at certain points. The conclusion is also unsatisfying, not because it leaves some things open ended, but because it just sort of stops, as if the filmmakers couldn’t come up with anything better. The Tracey Fragments is definitely a flawed work, but I give it credit for taking a risky approach to its difficult subject matter, and for Page’s performance, which has flaws of its own, but nevertheless carries the movie. Recommended mostly for fans of the experimental.

MONKEY RATING: TWO MONKEYS

(For a brief explanation of the Monkey Review rating system, click here.)

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