Length: 77 minutes
Director: Bruce McDonald (“Degrassi: The Next Generation”; Hardcore Logo)
Writer: Maureen Medved
Starring: Ellen Page, Ryan Cooley, Slim Twig, Julian Richings, Ari Cohen, Kate Todd, Zie Souwand, Maxwell McCabe-Lokos
“The Tracey Fragments” is going to drag in the fair majority of it’s audience through it’s star, Ellen Page. She of “Juno” acclaim- Academy Award nomination and all. That audience is likely to be baffled and off put. Here is a truly experimental and ambitious film about the tortures of adolescence and the guilt that can come along with mistakes made through the sure happenstance of being young and naïve. It’s the type of movie that demands multiple viewings to make sense of it all and will de dissected by the cult following that it’s more than likely to develop. Odd, considering it’s director’s most public work has been through directing episodes of the popular Canadian teen soap “Degrassi- The Next Generation”- a show, that granted takes on some pretty serious topics, but is still not exactly for the intellectual crowd (I’ll admit it’s an insanely guilty pleasure). He, being Bruce McDonald, has also directed a couple of cult ’90’s indie films- one being the rock mockumentary “Hardcore Logo” and the other a sweet and weird road trip romantic-comedy about a barber and a groupie on the run from the devil called “Highway 61” (one of the first VHS tapes I ever owned- check the movie out if you can find a copy of it). Neither of those films, nor obviously the “Degrassi” episodes, hinted at the talent that he shows here. The movie is comprised 99% of it’s way in multiple fragments on the screen. It’s all over the place. It’s not exactly interested in giving a linear plot or a flowing explanation of what’s happening. I ended up watching it a few times and although it made sense the first time around, it’s impossible not to catch and absorb more of the story the more you watch it (think Mike Figgis’ “Timecode”, but all over the place). Page stars as 15 year old Tracey Berkowitz. The beginning of the film (or the end depending on which way you look at it) finds her in the back of a public bus, naked, except for a shower curtain wrapped around her. She is looking for her missing brother, Sonny (Zie Souwand), whom she has taught to bark like a dog. The disappearance has put Tracey’s life into complete disarray. We get the feeling that she had trouble distinguishing reality from fantasy to begin with and that maybe this has pushed her over the edge. She talks to herself, reasons that her brother has to be somewhere. She has a “rock star” boyfriend named Billy Zero (Slim Twig), who may or may not be real. She has a psychiatrist (Julian Richings), who also might be a figment of her imagination, and seems to do little to help. She has a home life that is in shambles and full of tension since the younger brother’s disappearance. Scenes of the times prior to the disappearance don’t appear to be any better. The movie is sure to be overanalyzed by some, brushed off by others as “too pretentious” (which, to be honest, it does have pretentious moments), and adopted by a few that probably won’t understand it, but love it anyway. It’s not exactly an easy watch, but Page puts off all those naysayers that say she has limited range. She delivers a powerhouse performance here. Had it not been for a strong lead, the movie could have fallen in on itself. She makes it work and her appeal opens up the film to being accessible enough to be intriguing (if that makes any sense). It’s worlds away from “Juno” and “Degrassi”- Tracey herself isn’t even sure what world it is to begin with and yet by the end of the film, when the picture comes into one frame, somehow she figures it out. The challenge for the viewer is whether or not they can too.