Director Bruce McDonald won the award in 1989 for Most Outstanding Canadian Film at the Toronto Film Festival and proclaimed that with the $25,000 prize he was going to buy a “big chunk of hash.” It seems as though he didn’t smoke that hash until 2007 when he made The Tracey Fragments, a disjointed, deformed, scramble of plot, concept, direction, and framing that you either have to be (1) stoned to follow correctly or (2) stoned to even think could fucking work.
Now, I’m all about “experimental direction” as this movie can be classified under, but just because it’s experimental doesn’t immediately make it respectable. Vinegar, urine, and Aveeno oatmeal cookies are experimental when you get right down to it and unlike Sin City, Mirrormask and Memento that took truly unique approaches to tell their stories and did them WELL, Tracey Fragments, on top of having a shitty story, never really made sense of itself and didn’t give us a reason to respect the approach it was taking.
It uses the split screen technique…about a billion times per frame, sometimes having the same exact sequence cut 20 different ways on the screen at a time, usually of Tracey running ‘cause god forbid if it did that trick at a point where it made sense to see things at different angles. Assembled like a Piet Mondrian painting, The Tracey Fragments isn’t a credit so much to direction as it is to the Post-Production teams that were told pretty much to take a buttload of nonsensical scenes and fit them all on the screen somehow so hopefully a few people, preferably film critics, happen to gaze at the slices that assemble an actual movie. It’s like reading a Choose Your Own Adventure book from cover to cover and then trying to write a book report on it. Again, probably could pull that off while you were stoned. I don’t really know.
The Tracey Fragments is about Tracey Burkowitz (Ellen Page) a “normal” (as she calls it) 15 year old suffering through teen angst, loneliness, frustration, rebellion, delusions of grandeur, and…convincing her younger brother that he’s a dog and then losing him in the woods because there has to be a story arc somewhere. Running away from a stern grounding sentence to go find him…or to just run away from home, the movie never really seems sure, Tracey finds herself amidst what would probably be her future if she continued this path of emo-tistical egoism that ultimately teaches her absolutely nothing in the end except that she’s a complete fucking moron.
Flooded with meaningless monologues that have as much depth as the kiddie pool at the rec center and an obnoxious infatuation with the word “tits,” Fragments fails to actually do anything correctly here except end before it loses even more dustbusters. Its attempts to incite suspense through chaotic cutting fail and just make for a confusing story. The artistic sequences don’t actually work because they don’t make you think differently about what’s going on with the hope you’ll come to some psychoanalytical revelation and feel you’ve expanded beyond the scope of your own mind, they’re just there to divert your attention like drawings of penises on the bathroom stall in a gas station diverts your attention from the fact that it’s out of toilet paper. Just like that situation, I dealt with this shit for 77 minutes before I realized there was no way to clean it up.
Props are always going to go to Ellen Page for doing an amazing job at pretty much the only job people let her do nowadays…talking with a profound disgust towards society. Her role demanded a lot from and she did an amazing job at it, but that doesn’t save this movie from all of the crap it tried to pull. Forgettable, boring, and slightly agonizing, The Tracey Fragments gets 4 dustbusters out of a 10 and a solid “don’t waste your time” from me.