Don’t smoke while someone is in the agony of finding her brother: on “The Tracey Fragments”


Since I met Ellen Page on “Juno” a few years ago, she has been sort of under my radar and I have been googling her every now and then for significant updates. While she was still teeny but exuding more spunk and certitude in Juno as a girl who got pregnant quit early, she was more tentative and fidgety as Tracey Berkowitz in The Tracey Fragments, another movie which came out in 2007, the same year Juno was released. For this one, I intend to focus on The Tracey Fragments and how, as I thought of it just now, she resembles Holden Caulfield there, driven by the hankering for adventure, of meandering beyond the limits only to see the phoniness and transiency of things, and reverting to what is more stable, more real.

Tracey is 15, and she is not very far from most of her peers of that age, only that their eminent trait of ambivalence and feigned firmness was more noted in her. She compared her family to a hole, and perhaps from that we were less surprised at her dispositions and actions. Her father, as she said, linked her to this word – accident. Also her mother, who smokes gazillions a day and is usually stuck on the tv. And perhaps undeniably the only source of light in the dim hole – her younger brother, Sonny, whom she hypnotized to bark like a dog, and which at the onset of the film, is missing —

Just like Tracey’s sense of who she is, why is she breathing under the buildings of America, why do her schoolmates dislike her – the common teenage problem usually compared to the debts of even the biggest economies.

The film was mostly a quest, for Sonny and of herself. And in its course, Tracey met people whom perhaps she thought would help her in securing a more stable ground for herself. But as if inviting her to slit her wrist and watch the dripping of blood out of her own skin, they were of no avail.

The guy from Toronto got no keys: drugs, pot, violence and Tracey seeing off-limits:

Sometimes, trust them.

There was Lance whom she met on a subway and who told her he would her in looking for Sonny. In Lance, she only saw the violence that seems inevitably correspondent to underground “business associations,” which by the way she responded after seeing Lance’s “boss” clobber him for not paying a debt, can be inferred as something she is not yet ready to take.

The optimism was fanned for a longer time only because Lance has this way of reassuring her that she could find Sonny and that he is not dead, as she thought of and insisted might be the case several times. As he put it, “I’m fucking Lance and I’d help you find your brother.” All these went off just as the blizzard passed and went.

 

No Prince Charmings and last-minute kisses here, only him:

It's better if you stay that way, kid.

There’s Billy Zero, the wrong “hero” (read: his surname, or whatever you call that thing after his name) who at one point was a campus phenom and treated Tracey like a rare gem. In Billy Zero, she had her hormones seething like melting water in a small pot but is yet to want to be put off. With him, she had those teenage dreams where one vividly imagines before going to sleep actually sleeping and building some genuine relationship with. It was fluke, and one that died down easily.

It should be noted that it was because of this affair with Billy Zero that Tracey lost Sonny. She was with him playing in the woods, running with him, painting happiness like she did not in the majority of the film. But there came Billy, just being there and she was lured by his gravity, joining him in a quickie in his car, only to be abandoned after – and losing a brother.

Where is the crisis?

Her parents have long been keeping in their minds that she could have a borderline disorder – something that can be easily associated with teenagers who are extremely confused and cannot bear the confusion they seek to expand their borders and look for the answers. She was at once vehement with her psychiatrist Dr. Heker only to be gentler and more relaxed after, albeit still a rather feigned one; albeit her fingers are still fighting one another and manifesting her uneasiness.

After the family knew about Sonny’s disappearance, the tension that has always been with them only went more uncontrollable, more splashing like the rains have not stopped for weeks the waters in the rivers are going to swallow a reckless ambulant. Who among the family was the reckless one, who has to take the bulk of the blame? On a grim confrontation, her father pointed to Tracy, “Look at what you’ve done to Mommy, she’s destroyed,” before blurting some more that they are in a crisis.

Tracey would spill out her angst and just would not succumb like a sheep does to its herder: everything’s a fucking crisis, as if to say: we have been here all along and Sonny being gone is only its ultimate effect, the most harrowing. So they have to find him. And Tracey tried.

A personal resolution

And with the film rolling to its end, Tracey left the bus she took after getting out of Lance’s place, with a blanket covering her body, and her voice, monstrous in its firmness, that they have to find him, that no one can stop her, that no one can make her stand still. She saw Billy Zero with his friends as she walked, but ignored him. She continued walking, more relaxed, with hardly a trace of being distraught or in panic, perhaps only a more tempered optimism, or a well-founded knowledge that all she mainly needs to set forth meaningfully in her life is herself, not a pot-lover from Toronto or a troubled campus icon. And the screen is complete once and for all, unlike most of the earlier parts where everything is fragmented, like broken pieces of paper going on top of the older ones.

She is not whole, Sonny is yet to be found, but at least she had some piece of clarity, all that is left to do is take care of that and continue faring.

What I found sweet

And what I found sweet is this: Sonny giving Tracey a necklace, despite their parent’s slight reproaches, and Tracey obviously valuing that gift present from her brother. Which leads me back to the earlier comparison of Tracey Berkowitz to Holden Caulfield: in the thick of all the confusions and stress brought by the pressures of their environment, they were able to carve a niche of solitude and contentment with the aid of their younger siblings, where there is genuine companionship and warmth and the sense that this won’t break apart. And I thank this because I have this shot of Tracey Berkowitz:

This is lovely.
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