Since the success of Crash, video-store shelves and online queues have been flooded with portentous, star-studded ensemble dramas that luxuriate in grief, existential ennui, and the interconnectedness of mankind. It’s easy to see why actors who should know better flock to these films. They’re filmed with big, melodramatic scenes, juicy character arcs, and lots of beautiful, Oscar-friendly suffering. Since these films juggle so many subplots and characters, they require a minimal expenditure of time and effort for big-name actors playing small but vital parts. What A- or B-lister wouldn’t be willing to spare a day or three shooting a film with the potential to be the next Crash? So far, Crash’s DOA cinematic progeny have been almost uniformly terrible, but few have been worse than Fragments, a moody drama that limps out of the gate and loses momentum with each leadenly paced scene. Fragments makes 96 minutes feel like several lifetimes.
Forest Whitaker leads an overqualified cast as a sad-eyed gambling addict who survives a diner massacre that has a profound effect on all its witnesses. Dakota Fanning, Guy Pearce, and Kate Beckinsale play three other survivors, each coping with the aftereffects of trauma in different ways. The precocious Fanning becomes a religious zealot and sets about transforming her dead father into a martyr. Beckinsale tries to dull the pain by hooking up with men and neglecting her daughter, while doctor Pearce begins drugging his troubled, headache-addled wife.
Director Rowan Woods and screenwriter Roy Freirich don’t seem to realize that people only tolerated Crash’s misery-porn and soft-headed philosophy because it accompanied a pulpy melodrama with a surplus of vulgar energy. Fragments, in sharp contrast, simply lies limply onscreen, begging to be put out of its misery. The filmmakers want to say something profound about the grieving process and the resilience of the human spirit, but their noble intentions are sabotaged by a script that lurches morosely from story to story without doing justice to any of them. Joyless and dull, Fragments is as depressing as it is unedifying and superficial.
Key features: A Woods commentary for masochists who want to spend 90 more minutes inhabiting this dour world.