Writer: Maureen Medved (novel & screenplay)
Director: Bruce McDonald
Budget: $750 000 (Canadian)
Gross: $31 576 (USA)
this was one of those "watch-it-because-of-the-director" movies for me. i was flipping through my movie channels and i saw The Tracy Fragments. the name rang a bell but nothing more than that. So i pushed the info button on my remote and saw "directed by bruce mcdonald....."
those of you who have been following the blog/podcast for a while now might remember a film i talked about back in 2007 called Roadkill - also directed by bruce mcdonald. and the reason i had been interested in seeing that film was because of the first bruce mcdonald film i ever saw, 1996s Hard Core Logo - which is, along with This Is Spinal Tap, the best fake rockumentary i have ever seen... anyway, back to The Tracy Fragments...
this is a film that really needs to be seen to be full appreciated (seems like a pretty obvious statement no?), in that talking about it really doesn't do it justice. in its basic simplest form, The Tracy Fragments is about tracy, played by ellen page (if you thought her great performance in Juno was a fluke, this will prove it wasn't), riding around on a city bus looking for her missing younger brother who she has hypnotized to think he is a dog. that is where the film begins, but how did we get to that point? why is she wearing a shower curtain on the bus? what is life like for her at school? and at home? all those questions are answered as the film evolves and jumps back and forth bringing time lines together over the course of about 80 minutes.
besides the non-linear storytelling the editing and visual style of the movie is what stands out. The fragmented teenage world and mind of tracy is portrayed visually throughout the film by the constant changing grid/split-screen technique in which images and scenes shot from various angles all play out on the screen at the same time. if you are familiar with the show 24 you can think of The Tracy Fragments as "24 on crack" - it isn't out of the ordinary in the film to have 6,7,8 or more grids on the screen at the same time or multiple picture-in-picture type visuals.
i will admit that for the first 5, maybe 10 minutes i wasn't sure about the film. the fractured time line story telling seemed like it might never come together and i started to feel like maybe the constant fragmented screen was nothing more than an interesting exercise. but, it wasn't. the film worked beautifully and as moments came to pass that connected with things we had already seen the story formed coherently and the mondrian-like split-screen editing only added to the film and the storytelling.
i would recommend watching The Tracy Fragments on as big a screen as possible, because when the screen gets really fragmented the many images do get kinda small on an old 19-inch crt (like the one i have). however, even on a sceen that size you will appreciate the film as a fascinating work of movie making and a film that stands as more then just that as well.