Thursday, April 24, 2008

The Tracey Fragments, based on Maureen Medved's novel of the same name, starts off with 15-year-old Tracey Berkowitz, played by Ellen Page, naked under a shower curtain at the back of a bus, looking for her little brother Sonny, who thinks he's a dog. The rest of the film pieces together the events leading up to the point where we first meet Tracey.

There are many cinematic devices director Bruce McDonald utilises in this film: the movie is shot almost entirely in split-screen, there are a number of jump cuts, there are some fantasy sequences, and as mentioned earlier, the story is told almost entirely through recollections. The thing with utilising such devices is that they ultimately end up distracting the viewer from what's going on.

Yes, I get it. It's in split screens and all that, because the fragments represent the disintegration of the main character's mental state, so on and so forth, but really, it felt as if the director tried to throw in as many nifty devices he could think of without any care and consideration for the viewer.

Now for the good parts. The soundtrack, scored by Broken Social Scene, and including other bands such as Peaches (who also feature on the Juno soundtrack) and Fembots, is well chosen and nicely interwoven with the overall film. There is a particularly good scene in the beginning of the film where Broken Social Scene's cover of Patti Smith - Horses is cut in quite well with the scene in question, almost as if the movie stopped being a movie for a moment, and was instead subject to the technical wizardry of a VJ.

Ellen Page turns in another brilliant performance as a disaffected, bullied, neurotic teenager, sort of like a more damaged Juno (although this film was made before that show). She conveys the hard-edged innocence of Tracey incredibly effortlessly. And in one sequence, where she dresses up in New Wave/Fafi fashion, she just looked incredible. Her eyes are very expressive. I wish I could pull that off, and, hey, I'm way more Oriental-looking than she would ever be, and, yet, I just know I can't do it with the same panache she possesses.

All in all, I would say that The Tracey Fragments is a decent movie. I would give it 3 out of 5 stars. I would have rated it higher had all the visual trickery not given me a slight headache. However, it did. So, unless you're a huge fan of Ellen Page (which I am, to a minor extent) or like movies with cool soundtracks (again, something I am), I wouldn't declare this a must-see. I was a little regretful that I sacrificed some study time for this as it is coming out on general release later this year.

Of course, the fact that there was a free afterparty which came with my ticket which included a viewing of Tracey Remixed, a movie remix by VJ Buzzard Buzzard, accompanied by a live ambient soundtrack by Youthmovies did make the sacrifice a little more worthwhile.

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