Review by Robert Bell
"My name is Tracey Berkowitz; 15; just a normal girl who hates herself." Such is her identity; a young woman defined by the perceptions of those around her and how they treat her; like junk; something to discard. Tracey is another lost soul in the landscape of Canadian film, where everyone seems to be a victim of isolation, abandonment, incest, hate crimes, and drug addiction; or is involved with some sort of sexual deviance. The Canuck movie circuit is an interesting one, where the true anomaly is normalcy and a happy ending. Perhaps this stems from Canadian identity itself, which is inundated with external influence, but separated, and aware of as much. There are no delusions of grandeur or self importance, as the landscape itself isn't defined by global power, but more so by the lack of interest in such whimsical fancies and heroics. The cultural identity is one of self deprecating humour and humble aspirations, as the unconscious feels knowledge of limitation and distance.
The Tracey Fragments is a cognitive exploration of a young woman who is repeatedly rejected by everyone in her life and how it impacts her personal identity. Told through chaotic, blue-tinted, split-screen antics, with many non-diegetic inserts, the film tests audience patience, giving them little linearity or narrative to grasp onto. It's not an easy film to digest, and masks a fairly simple and clichéd story with stylistic excess, but it has a very distinct and interesting message of the many moments and fragments that go into a person before a life changing mistake is made.
As the film is told "in fragments" and the protagonist has a tendency to exaggerate and lie, a great deal of the plot can be left to viewer interpretation. Tracey Berkowitz (Ellen Page) is a depressive young woman, who finds herself unwanted by her parents and teased at school. The only person in her life who doesn't seem to mind having her around is her younger brother Sonny, who she has hypnotized into believing he is a dog.
On a particular winter excursion with her younger brother, Tracey is approached by the new kid at school (her dreamboat) Billy Zero (Slim Twig), who politely invites her into his car. Surprised and flattered by attention she rarely garners, Tracey gets into the car, leaving her younger brother unattended.
The actual exploration of Tracey's character is certainly the high point of this film. Much is told of her self image as she recites monologues at the back of a public bus. She reflects on the nature of love, body image, parental influence, lack of importance, and a great deal more. Her inner-turmoil is greatly revealed as she tells the story of a horse who is deemed useless once it falls; being shot and turned into glue, only to be eaten by children. The symbolism can be taken many ways, one way being that every encountered being leaves a trace of themselves to be absorbed by those around them; even those left to rot, as Tracey feels she is.
As Tracey, Ellen Page delivers a pretty unflattering, but brave, performance. Playing a desperately insecure, self-involved, depressive and extremely angry young woman who casually tosses about C-words and shoplifts, Page gives it her all. She captures angst and disappointment with a painful ease.
Her character and performance is what elevates this film beyond the clichés that inhabit and surround it. Efforts at edginess often feel silly, as Tracey runs away, hooks up with a borderline transient, and winds up in a rape situation. It's all a bit much, even if it is just a figment of Tracey's imagination.
The film itself doesn't make a great deal of effort to embrace a mainstream audience. Stylistic embellishment and frame-within-frame inserts certainly drive Tracey's perspective home, but leave the viewer straining for something familiar and grounding.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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