A 90-year-old woman, rapidly losing her memory and knowing that sooner or later her life will be over, returns to the Manitoba farmhouse she grew up in to try and make peace with her dysfunctional family.
A massage therapist is unable to do her job when stricken with a mysterious and sudden aversion to bodily contact. Meanwhile, her uptight brother's floundering dental practice receives new life when clients seek out his healing touch.
Tracey Berkowitz, 15, a self-described normal girl, loses her 9-year old brother, Sonny. In flashbacks and fragments, we meet her overbearing parents and the sweet, clueless Sonny. We watch Tracey navigate high school, friendless, picked on and teased. She develops a thing for Billy Zero, a new student, imagining he's her boyfriend. We see the day she loses Sonny and we watch her try to find him. In bits and pieces, we see what leads up to her riding in the back of a city bus wrapped in a shower curtain. Coming of age, or just surviving?Written by
As part of the promotion for the Canadian release, the distributor released all of the original footage as downloadable torrent files and encouraged people to re-edit the footage into whatever they saw fit. This is believed to be the first theatrically-released film to make its footage available in such a fashion. Entries ranged from music videos to a complete re-edit of the film in linear order, without split screens. See more »
Billy Zero is not exactly famous. But he's a star to me, all right? He is the most gorgeous boy I have ever seen. On any music video, anywhere. In the whole world. And he did not pick just any girl. He picked me.
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If it's true, as Marshall McLuhan has suggested, that the medium is indeed the message, then "The Tracey Fragments" proves that theory in spades. This highly idiosyncratic work has as its focal point "Tracey Berkowitz - 15 - just another girl who hates herself" - a description that comes straight from the mouth of Ms. Berkowitz herself. Tracey is a deeply unhappy youngster who hates her (admittedly horrible) parents, is terrorized by all the "cool" kids in school for insufficient mammary-gland development, spends most of her nights riding the subway, hooks up with a psychotic lowlife who turns out to be a drug dealer, and searches for her little brother whom she's hypnotized into thinking he's a dog and who goes missing by a frozen river when she's supposed to be watching out for him. To help mitigate her misery, Tracey also dreams of having a relationship with a brooding "emo" bad boy at school and fantasizes that she is a famous, universally worshipped rock star.
But it is not Tracey's story that is of primary interest here; rather it's the cut-and-paste film-making style director Bruce McDonald has employed to create a sense of fragmentation and dislocation in the viewer - intended, obviously, to mirror the highly chaotic and disordered nature of Tracey's world and life. With rare exceptions, the screen is occupied by as few as two and as many as a dozen shots at a time, often portraying the same sequence from slightly different angles or at slightly different moments in time, or portraying thematically related scenes simultaneously. The question inevitably arises, is the approach effective in what it's trying to accomplish or does it serve as a distancing device for those of us who are trying to enter into Tracey's mind and world. I imagine that different viewers will come to varying verdicts on that point.
Personally, I appreciate what McDonald is trying to do here more than I admire it. "The Tracey Fragments," which Maureen Medved has adapted from her own novel, offers many probing insights into the subject of teenage angst, particularly as regards the tremendous pressure modern young people are put under to "measure up" and conform to some arbitrarily agreed-upon social standard. And "Juno"'s Ellen Page gives a stunning performance as the young woman caught in an ever-tightening web of self-hatred (this is, in many ways, the darker side of "Juno," and Page is much less mannered in this role).
But, frankly, the movie probably would have been more moving and involving without all the migraine-inducing imagery which succeeds mainly in throwing us out of the story. In fact, there is only one scene in which the split screen technique actually serves a narrative purpose - and that is when Tracey is hiding behind a curtain while her drug-dealer friend is being savagely beaten by the irate boss to whom he owes money. Most of the rest of the time, the approach feels more like a gimmick designed to separate this film from the rest of the "distressed-teen indie" pack than an artistically viable choice in its own right.
Still, if you can get past all the artiness and visual distraction, you might just find in "The Tracey Fragments" a thoughtful, sensitive and ineffably sad glimpse into a young woman's heart.
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