Even if The Tracey Fragments was a failure of a movie, it is one I would still feel compelled to recommend. There are only two reasons for this, one being the fact that Ellen Page is a really good actress, and the other is the unique style the film is made in. If it was a terrible film, I would have to make the decision whether or not to recommend watching it just because you won’t see anything like it again.
Fortunately, this dilemma won’t come up, because The Tracey Fragments is actually a really good film. It’s not incredible or mind-blowing, but it is one of those films that you should watch to experience its unique style, but want to watch again because it was actually a good watch.
It isn’t a fun watch though, and I could see many people not liking it because of that. There are a few reasons as to why it can be difficult, but the first, and most prevalent, is in its unique style that I have, and will continue to, praise. While the film was shot in just 14 days, it took 9 months to edit. These 9 months were spent splitting the picture into little bits and pieces. It’s like watching TV with picture-in-picture on, except there can be up to 10 different things going on at once. It’s hard to explain exactly what it looks like, just like I can see it being hard to watch.
This part wasn’t that bad for me, but I have heard others complain that they got headaches from it. It’s a unique style, to say the least, and while it does serve a purpose, it could be off-putting. It takes a little while to get used to it, but if you do manage to adjust, it no longer becomes a burden, but instead becomes a way to enhance the viewing experience. As Tracey becomes more emotional and confused, the screen splits into more parts, giving us an instant connection with her. It helps us understand our protagonist, and does so in an ingenious way.
Our lead is 15-year-old Tracey Berkowitz (Ellen Page), just a “normal girl who hates herself”. We meet her on a city bus, and we stay there for the rest of the film, only taken off it for flashbacks telling us what led up to her current situation. She’s fled from her house, looking for her 9-year-old brother Sonny. Sonny is missing, and nobody knows where he is. Tracey is grounded, but leaves anyway. She hates her home life.
We don’t get much story to begin with, or even much truth. Tracey is an unreliable narrator, at least to begin with, and there are some situations that are shown many times. Each time they are show, we get closer to the finding out the truth. The fragmented screen is also one of deception, showing the current event in different lights, angles and endings. One portion of the screen could show Tracey smiling and waving at someone, while the one right beside it could show her sitting there looking depressed. Which one really happened? We don’t necessarily need to find out.
Why doesn’t it matter? Well, the plot of The Tracey Fragments is actually one of the least important parts of the film. It is actually all about the audience getting to know Tracey herself, as well as attempt to understand everything she is going through. She is bullied, depressed, has a terrible home life, and her brother believes that he’s a dog. She has a lot of problems, and a lot of the film is her attempting to work through them.
In fact, The Tracey Fragments is more of a coming of age story than anything else. She has to learn how to grow up, as well as how to deal with her new responsibilities. There are a lot of symbols within the film to back this point up, from the forthcoming blizzard to her brother and his situation.
Tracey is an interesting protagonist, in which she isn’t one that we want to like, but can’t help feeling for her. She’s rude, crude and disrespectful, but we can relate with her. There are reasons behind her attitude, and we get to know her through the copious amounts of flashbacks throughout the film. She’s a character that most people can relate to, as almost everyone, (and everyone who is watching it, given its R rating, right?), has gone through the same feelings that she has. Beaten up by the world and everything in it, not feeling like you belong anywhere? That’s Tracey’s life.
As most people know by now, Ellen Page is a very good actress. She carries The Tracey Fragments, and needs to. If her performance wasn’t as good as it is, the film could have easily felt like a film relying on a single gimmick. She is great though, and gives quite an incredible performance. We feel for her and her character, and she seemed to nail every emotional scene that she was in.
The Tracey Fragments isn’t a film for the general audience, I can admit that easily. The non-linear storytelling, as well as the split-screen technique, can be quite off-putting and hard to follow. That’s the intention though; you are supposed to be confused, just like Tracey. Ellen Page is wonderful, and the character of Tracey is one you will care about, like it or not. You might not end up liking The Tracey Fragments, but it’s a film you won’t see anything like any time soon, and is worth watching just for that experience.