In between her earlier roles in Hard Candy and X-Men: The Last Stand and her incredible breakthrough as the lead in Juno, Ellen Page made an independent film in Canada that has earned a wider release seemingly on the back of its young star’s rising fame. Straight to dvd in Australia, there are good reasons it wasn’t as successful as Page’s better known works.
Page is Tracey Berkowitz, a 15-year-old outcast with no friends and an unpleasant home environment. She is riding the bus at night, dressed only in a shower curtain, and looking for her brother Sonny who is missing. Her recollections of how she got there (and the images they provoke) will form the basis of the film.
The only truly remarkable thing about The Tracey Fragments is its use of multiple independent but related images to present its story. The screen can be filled with two or three, or as many as ten to twenty, different video tracks (and some with their own audio) that present variations on the information – this allows background or subsequent data to be introduced to colour the audience’s impressions of that attained from the main window. This seems impressive at first glance, but eventually becomes little more than tiring.
Coupled with the visual style, the story is told out of order, with recollections all mashed up to form a narrative told with a heavy focus on flashback, but a disjointed form of flashback that requires the audience to work much harder than many will be willing. This combination of visual and editing styles introduces a heavy layer of artifice that makes Tracey harder to access as a character and her story more difficult to appreciate. On reflection it is obvious that it is in fact a very straightforward tale told in a unneccessarily complicated way.
Page shows glimpses of the power she has to arrest the attention of an audience, although she is never allowed to be as magnetic as in her Hard Candy tour de force. The film is entirely hers, however, with other characters seen only through the Tracey prism – no supporting role is of much substance, although Slim Twig as Billy Zero manages to be enigmatic enough to hold his own.
Perhaps one of the more interesting components of the The Tracey Fragments experience is the release of the entire film’s footage to the public in a competition (Tracey Re:fragmented) encouraging its re-editing into alternate trailers, music videos or even a full-length film. Perhaps amateur filmmakers could take the basic data and transform it into a film worth watching, but it is hard to recommend in its released state.Rating: