REVIEW: Hard Candy

Post ImageI went to see Hard Candy last night with Sharon at the Princess here in Edmonton. We weren’t sure exactly what to expect, as most of the things I had read said something like “story about an Internet pedophile with a twist.” I ended up liking the movie, if not exactly enjoying it – Hard Candy isn’t a movie you can enjoy (unless you’re particularly sick and twisted I suppose). The film was originally released last January at the Sundance Film Festival, but has only recently made it to the theatres.

With the exception of the first scene or two, the entire movie takes place at Jeff’s house where we see the interaction between Jeff (played by Patrick Wilson) and young Hayley (played by Ellen Page). The acting is brilliant, as it would have to be for a movie that has only two characters and one set! This has been called Ellen’s breakout role, and its easy to see why – her character is so multifaceted and she plays all sides extremely well. The scenes are beautifully shot as well. As Sharon noted, when the movie starts and Jeff has power over Hayley, the shots of him are far away, while Hayley is shown up close. When the power shifts, so do the shots.

The movie has been called a “revenge drama”, but it’s just as much a psychological thriller as it is a drama. The actors do such an amazing job that you can’t help but be drawn into their heads, to ponder what they are thinking. Director David Slade does a good job of keeping the story going, at times letting the audience relax before bringing the suspense right back again.

SPOILERS BELOW – Skip this next part if you don’t want to know what happens.

Despite all the good things in Hard Candy, I think the film suffers from two flaws. The first is that we are never given a reason for why Hayley becomes a vigilante for underage girls everywhere. Is she a friend of the young girl who she claims Jeff murdered? If not, how did she find out about Jeff? What motivates her? This omission was particularly troublesome at the end of movie, as you’re left wondering why?

The second flaw is that Hayley seems much older than a 14 year old girl. Perhaps she is, as she points out at one point, “maybe I’m not even Hayley.” So that could explain that she’s older than 14, but assuming she is 14, she seems far too smart/mature. I am not an expert on the behaviour of 14 year old girls mind you, but Hayley’s is anything but normal.

Okay maybe one more flaw – how did Jeff not pass out when Hayley was “castrating” him? The sight alone would have sent me off to never never land I think! Sure he squirmed and begged and stuff, but still.

SPOILERS ABOVE

Hard Candy was apparently filmed in just 18 days. It is based on a real story that producer David Higgins had heard about girls in Japan who would bait sexual predators online to confront them. The title itself comes from the Internet slang for an underaged girl.

Once you get past the disturbing parts of the movie, you’ll probably start to question what happened. Was it deserved? Is it the only way to deal with Internet pedophiles? Or perhaps the best question of all – should sexual predators/Internet pedophiles be punished, or helped? Jeff is clearly a troubled man, and he realizes this thanks to Hayley, so what if she had helped him instead of punishing him? I think that’s the dilemma the movie leaves you with.

I’d say that Hard Candy was a good movie, that executes very well on it’s intended goals. That said, it’s not for everyone, and if you’re going to watch it, be prepared! The disturbing scenes in the movie really are disturbing, so keep that in mind. It’s rated R for a reason. I’m looking forward to what Ellen Page does next, as she’s obviously a very gifted actress.

Read: Hard Candy

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