Fragments, Indeed

dakota1 Fragments, Indeed FRAGMENTS
Running time 100 minutes
Written by Roy Freirich
Directed by Rowan Woods
Starring Kate Beckinsale, Guy Pearce, Dakota Fanning, Forest Whitaker, Jennifer Hudson, Jeanne Tripplehorn

Fragments is aptly titled. In style and format, it’s another connect-the-dots movie cut from the same bolt of cinematic fabric as  Crash, 21 Grams, and Babel. An act of random violence erupts in a Los Angeles diner, impacting the lives of several innocent survivors and triggering multiple, intercutting story strands, connected by a slim thread of circumstance. There is a big difference. Those films used life-or-death situations to achieve wrenching effects. In Fragments the connecting tissue is so frayed that it wears out fast.

The opening incident is indeed tragic, but the survivors meander fitfully, reaching no heights of human drama. The film succeeds mainly in the fascination of watching an excellent cast search vainly for a moral center. Kate Beckinsale, Guy Pearce, Dakota Fanning, Forest Whitaker, Jennifer Hudson and Jeanne Tripplehorn are among the castaways. Each has a powerful moment or two, but their stories don’t add up to much more than small change. A dad treating his daughter Anne (Ms. Fanning) and her friend Jimmy to a snack begs for mercy when the killer aims his gun at their heads. Just before the gunman pumps bullets through the man’s head, Dad weeps and says, “Please.” Anne convinces her grief-stricken mother (Ms. Tripplehorn) that he was brave and noble in the face of death, but the fact that both kids regard him as a coward seems to torture them endlessly. The frustrated surgeon (Mr. Pearce) who can’t save them all, and who feels guilty for opening the door for the killer, sidetracks the film by becoming obsessed with finding a cure for his wife’s migraines. A cancer patient (Mr. Whitaker) with a bullet wound escapes from the reality of what happened by losing himself in a gambling casino for three days. He wants to make enough money to leave his daughter (Ms. Hudson) and her baby with some financial security after he’s gone. The waitress who witnessed the whole thing (Ms. Beckinsale) turns to promiscuity as she goes slowly mad. Submerged in mourning, little Anne loses touch with her environment and becomes a religious fanatic, while her mom embraces her inner rage and Jimmy, who was under the table during the shooting, loses his voice and becomes a mute. Everyone grieves differently, but none of this is comfortably convincing.

The press labels the survivors lucky, but are they? None of the victims will be able to walk back into the daylight whole, healthy or self-contained in their safe little worlds. But sadly, their stories are not very interesting, the writing (by Roy Freirich, who adapted the script from his novel, Winged Creatures) is perfunctory and Rowan Woods’ direction lacks both energy and logic. The pace is too languid to sustain much viewer concentration, and whatever the characters go through seems only peripherally connected to the shooting in the diner. Close, but no cigar.

rreed@observer.com