Synopsis: A smart, charming teenage girl, Hayley probably shouldn’t be going to a local coffee shop to meet Jeff, a 30-something fashion photographer she met on the Internet. But before she knows it, she’s mixing drinks at Jeff’s place and stripping for an impromptu photo shoot. It’s Jeff’s lucky night. But Hayley isn’t as innocent as she looks, and the night takes a turn when she begins to impose a hard-hitting investigation on Jeff in an attempt to reveal his possibly scandalous past.
Hard Candy 8.0
I honestly don’t know how I feel about this one. It’s a remarkable film, in that it’s so intense that you’re “in the moment” the whole time, every second of the way. So it succeeds exceptionally well on that count. The performances are so damn fierce that you can’t look away, regardless of the overwhelming amount of anger, fear, and spite that tears through the screen.
A lot has to be said for their performances because 95% of the film features only the two main actors, face to face in a disturbing psychological game of cat and mouse. That a dialogue-intensive movie which features only two people (along with a couple of extremely minor cameos) can be so riveting is in large part due to them. Granted, the script and the direction do wonders, but with even remotely inconsistent performances they’d have lost their audience. Not so.
In fact, these are some of the best performances that I’ve seen this year. I had been told that Ellen Page (of ‘Juno’ fame) was astounding in here and she is. But she is so unlikeable here that I found myself unable to disassociate from the performance itself; I really don’t want to like her. Patrick Wilson is also exceptional, even if he plays a total creep. I don’t know who he is, but I want to see more of him now.
On the other hand, it’s not a fun ride; the subject matter is hard to digest and is not for everyone. It’s an uncomfortable ride because both characters are up to, or have been up to, truly horrible things – so there are no heroes and it’s a challenge to sympathize with either one of them. You can understand why they are there, why there are doing what they are doing, but you’d be hard-pressed to take a side.
I should note that, because I’m in “Hallowe’en” mode this month, one might be inclined to think that this a horror movie. In fact, it’s only a thriller. And it’s hardly gruesome – there is not one ounce of blood spilled in the whole movie. This movie functions strictly on a psychological level: it questions one’s core values, plays with men, women and parents’ fears, and takes us into the heart of darkness.
Sadly, the movie was improperly marketed on all counts:
For starters, it was called ‘Hard Candy’, which makes it sound like a cheesy Hollywood teen flick. Secondly, the artwork for the DVD (and, presumably, the poster) makes it look like some disposable ‘B’ movie. Finally, one of the tag lines on the DVD calls it “‘Fatal Attraction’ for a new generation”, which is totally inaccurate. In fact, if one were to make a comparison, I’d say “a smidge of ‘Fatal Attraction’ mixed with a LARGE part of ‘Misery'”.
It’s a real shame, because this is a movie that more people should see. And it should have been talked about more, since it raises questions about our perception of good and evil, right and wrong.
It’s a movie I will hardly forget anytime soon.
(having said that, I’m not sure if I should give it an 8.0 or 8.5 so I decided to err on the side of caution)