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November 2009 SITE MAP   SEARCH

Fragments
cast: Kate Beckinsale, Forest Whitaker, Guy Pearce, Dakota Fanning, and Embeth Davidtz

director: Rowan Woods

92 minutes (15) 2008
widescreen ratio 1.85:1
Momentum DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 4/10
reviewed by Ian Sales
SPOILER ALERT!
Tell me if you've heard this one before... A man walks into a diner. And then he shoots everyone. Well, nearly everyone. No, we don't know why. It's never explained. But that's not important. Because the story is about the people who survived, it's about what they did afterward, about how they coped. Well, yes, it does sound a bit boring...

But, you see, Fragments (aka: Winged Creatures) is an adaptation of a book, Winged Creatures by Roy Frierich. Perhaps it works as prose. At least in a novel, the author can present the inner lives of the characters to the reader. In a movie, the actors have to show that - and so much of the richness is lost. To be fair, Fragments has mostly excellent cast, and it would not be implausible to expect them to make a good go of their roles.

Dr Laraby (Guy Pearce) visits the diner shortly before the shootings - in fact, as he exits he holds the door open for the shooter. Carla Davenport (Kate Beckinsale) is the diner's cashier (and who knew Beckinsale could almost act?). Charlie Archenault (Forest Whitaker) is a driving instructor, who is shot but miraculously only receives a minor wound. Anne Hagen (Dakota Fanning) is in the diner with her father and best friend Jimmy Jasperson (Josh Hutcherson). The father does not survive. So, how do they cope with this sudden intrusion of fatal violence into their lives? Badly, of course, and in different ways...

Laraby, for reasons left unexplained, sets about secretly inducing migraine headaches in his wife (Embeth Davidtz). Later, she takers some leftovers of a soup he has so poisoned and almost dies. Fortunately, Laraby reaches her in time. Davenport has sex with a lot of men. She also fixates on Laraby, so much so that she mistreats her baby in order to see the doctor more often. (He performs surgery on one of the shooting victims but, oddly, also seems to be a paediatrician.) Archenault decides to test his miraculous luck and heads for Las Vegas. There he gambles, talks annoyingly in rhyme a lot, wins a huge amount, loses it, gets a loan from a loan shark, loses that, and subsequently has his arm broken for failing to pay it back. He probably learns something life-affirming doing it, but I've no idea what. Young Anne Hagen finds God, and starts preaching to everyone. She is annoyingly precocious and even more annoyingly Christian. Soon you begin to wish she had been one of the fatalities. But, it transpires, this is all because she saw her dad pee his pants in fear, and she is determined to have him remembered as a hero. Her friend, Jimmy Jasperson, refuses to speak. He also seems to have trouble living under the shadow of his dead (I think) war-hero older brother.

The film cuts between these five, attempting to build up a story from episodes in their lives following the shooting. But there's no coherence, no narrative. Only time is pushing the story forwards - the five don't even share a resolution. It doesn't help that the characters are both too dull to be sympathetic, and too self-centred to pull their stories into a single narrative. It makes for an un-involving viewing experience - which is a shame, given the acting talent attached to the project.

A film adaptation of a book or short story should, as an adaptation, be judged according to two criteria. Is it faithful to its source? Does it make the viewer want to visit its source? Whatever the quality of the film, if it fails either of those then it's not a good adaptation. I've not read Winged Creatures, so I've no idea how faithful Fragments is to it. But after seeing the film, I've no desire to read the book. So, Fragments is not a good adaptation. And it's a dull film, too.
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