Wednesday, May 7, 2008

The Tracey Fragments

Film Review by Kam Williams

Headline: Ellen Page Plays Another Troubled Teen in Dysfunctional Family Drama

When we last saw Ellen Page, she was delivering her Oscar-nominated performance as Juno, a terminally-hip smart aleck who frustrated her parents by making light of her pregnancy after being knocked-up by a boy she barely knew. Now the talented young actress is back in another title role as another troubled teen from another dysfunctional nuclear family, except she’s not cracking any jokes.
As Tracey Berkowitz, she plays a clinically-depressed 15 year-old in crisis who hates herself, wants to be raped and murdered, and suspects that she might be going insane to boot. The source of her despair starts with her emotionally-distant mother (Erin McMurtry), a chain-smoking, substance-abusing couch potato who “it takes a surgical procedure to get away from the television.” Her failure of a father (Ari Cohen) isn’t any better, as he takes his daughter to a drag queen psychiatrist (Julian Richings) only to show impatience when the cross-dressing shrink doesn’t instantly produce improvements in his deeply disturbed daughter.
Life is just as bad for socially-isolated Tracey at school where her cruel classmates are calling her everything from “Geek Girl” to “Moon Face” to “Slutty Pants” to “Shirt Lifter” to “Unnecessary” and worse. Given all of the above, it’s not much of a surprise that at the point of departure we’d find her wrapped naked in a shower curtain and riding around Toronto on the back seat of a bus, claiming to be looking for the little brother (Zie Souwand) she’s hypnotized into believing he’s a dog.
But because The Tracey Fragments is a flashback flick, most of the movie is devoted to showing exactly why the waifish Ms. Berkowitz went this berserk. So, as she meanders about the metropolis mumbling to herself in a rage, she recounts in graphic fashion traumatic incidents like her being teased for having a flat chest, losing her innocence at the hands of a less than sensitive guy interested in only one thing, and being sexually assaulted by a Jamaican drug dealer.
Director Bruce McDonald deserves high praise for the chance he takes, here, departing from convention by experimenting with split screens for the duration of the claustrophobic psychodrama. He divides the picture into two, three or even four boxes at a time in order to convey the feeling that we’re dealing with a head case whose mind is clearly fragmented. The sometimes dizzying cinematic technique works, making for a viewing experience that is as convincing as it is unsettling.
Juno’s crazy twin sister!

Excellent (3.5 stars)
Running time: 78 minutes
Studio: THINKfilm Company

1 comment:

fidel said...

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