The Tracey Fragments, a Canadindie about a disturbed teenage runaway, sports a jigsawed chronology and a screen split into a shape-shifting grid on a warped space-time continuum; during the coming attractions montage that kicks the movie off, a mirror breaks, presumably to show the protagonist’s fragmented self.
Lukas Moodysson’s currently undistributed Container, too, is a schizophrenic movie about a schizophrenic protagonist, a scratchy black-and-white effort featuring multiple narratives seeping in and out of each other and a disjunctive voiceover — though unlike Container, which wormed its way inside personal trauma towards a warped sense of transcendence, there’s a sense, with Tracey, that director Bruce McDonald is using sensory overload and a some-assembly-required narrative to cover up for the fact that there’s not much of a there here. Tracey mostly seems like a mixed-up kid, her problems one-note versions of the same old (emo) song and dance: bitter lower-middle-class also-ran dad and withdrawn, chain-smoking suburban housewife mom; body-image taunts from the high school in-crowd; a guilt-ridden flight from home and into a world of lost boys and girls with bad teeth and no parents. When McDonald stacks and staggers three different shots of the same action, his video art technique serves no purpose other than to distract us from the banality of what’s actually onscreen (familiar scenes of sexual threat and humiliation, often).
McDonald has made an adolescent movie about adolescence, hyperbolizing teen angst into outright psychosis (with a side of symbolic image-systems). Still, like with an overwrought diary entry, you want to pick out moments of eloquence to encourage and refine the impulse to express, so: Broken Social Scene’s score, making moody music out of a confusion of instruments, is a pretty good anthem for a fifteen-year-old girl.
The reason that Tracey Fragments is being released here and Container isn’t, not incidentally, is that Tracey Berkowitz, in all her strange-little-girl glory, is played by Ellen Page. And this, too, is heartening in an odd sort of way. It’s a delightful moment when a 21-year-old actress who doesn’t look like Scarlett Johansson can secure an audience for the movie of her choosing. (Though this movie comes before Juno on her c.v., it comes to us on her it-indie shoulders) Bully for “Juno’s Ellen Page” for splurging her capital on something this unlikely, even unlikable, sort of like the one girl in your class whose parents don’t mind drinking hosting a tiki-themed after-prom party, with strictly enforced dress
Opens May 9