Monday, June 08, 2009

The Crazy Fragments

Minds Eye: The Tracey Fragments explores a characters thoughts through multiple camera shots being shown on screen simultaneously. You are not The One, you are an abberation!

Last weekend I watched Harold and Kumar Do Something Or Other At Guantanamo Bay, a comedy so lifeless and wretched that it's barely worth recognizing. I won't even bother to rate it, other than to say seeing that hackneyed mess made me realize I needed to challenge my viewing habits again. So tonight I watched an oh so avant garde movie, The Tracey Fragments.

Made in 2007 starring plucky go to gal for raging teen intellect Ellen Page (Juno), the story seems to revolve around loss of sanity and a missing child. Page plays Tracey Burkowitz, a 15 year old who is an alienated outsider from her school and family. She gets picked on at school, hangs out with a local loser who is older than her and gets in regular arguements with her family. Her younger brother is missing and she is frantic to find him in between her own personal little episodes. The movie is told exclusively from her point of view, or points of view to be accurate. Centering on Ellen Page's performance, she is completely believable as a teen caught in the downward spiral of her mind, slipping into fantasy or madness or both.

The teen-on-the-brink-of-disaster thing has been done in other movies before, what makes The Tracey Fragments stand out is its approach. Using multiple shots and angles, the director Bruce McDonald throws up anywhere from one small image to five, ten or more individually framed shots on the screen at once. It's set up like watching a person's brain cells fire off, images get bigger or smaller in importance, flow in waves across the screen, dialogue repeats from different angles as other images appear that pertain to the conversation like memory. It's a technically impressive feat and the style envelops you into Tracey's world. Her daydreams play out on screen like reality because it's real to her, you're never quite sure what's fake and what's fact, yet there's enough story and drama to keep pulling you along.

On the downside, nearly the entire movie is shot this way. Like a boxer endlessly jabbing you in the face, The Tracey Fragments became a workout for me as I tried to catch every image to figure out what it all meant. It wore me out a bit, made me feel like I was watching something slightly more impressive as a concept than in practice. The approach did make me appreciate Page's acting even more, giving a strong consistent performance regardless of the camera angle or edits.

Just think, what if you viewed your life like that guy in The Matrix that sits in a room surrounded by mini tvs. Now think, what if you were that guy and you were a teenage girl whose life really sucks. And then think, what if you were living in Canada and your life sucked and a big blizzard is coming in to town. It's enough to make someone go crazy.

Dixie likes The Tracey Fragments but thought it was as standoffish with its razzle dazzle editing as it was interesting. Still, there's enough power in the story and Ellen Page to keep it going. She gives it a:

No comments: