Sunday, February 28, 2010

Hard Candy Review (2005)

Hard Candy

Yes, before Juno, before Whip It, before she was really popular, Ellen Page starred in this little indie gem from 2005. It is directed by David Slade, who may not have made a very big paycheck off this film, but is sure to in the soon future. He also directed the hit vampire film 30 Days of Night, and is currently set to direct the 3rd Twilight film. It's so sad when an excellent director switches to the dark side. However, this is a very different Ellen Page then the one you have come to know and love. She is not your smart, sassy teen, but rather strong a brutal. And has a very short hair-cut.

While many have called for the reform of the MPAA's rating system for film, many say that Hard Candy is a perfect example why. While the MPAA currently rates film based on their content, such as language and violence, people question about film that have little bad content, but mature subject matter. Enter Hard Candy, a film that does have some strong language, and a little gore, but is much heavier-handed in political tones involving criminal penalty and molestation. Should films be rated based on context, or convention, or a combanation of both? Or should film go without rating, as to not ruin their artistic creativity, as some have also suggested.

Hard Candy is a very difficult film to process. And not an easy one to watch. Not because of graphic violence or anything of that sort, but because of it's story. It involves a young girl named Haley, who meets a man named Jeff over an internet chatroom. The two of them decide to meet, and as it turns out, Haley is 14, and Jeff is 32. They go back to his place, where we find out that he is a photographer, his home doubles as his studio, and he his brought back, and photographed many girls the same age as Haley. I think you get where the story goes from there. But, Haley is a lot more resiliant than she looks, and may even be more deviant and evil than Jeff.

While much controversy will be stirred in the audience over to subject matter, this is where Hard Candy really sticks out. It creates such a dynamic conflict in the viewer. Do we root for the young girl, to hold her own, or do we root for the pedophile, who is being very physically mutilated by his would-be victim. I think this is one of Ellen Page's strongerst performances. Much stronger than her showing in Whip It, and about on par with Juno. Also here we have
Patrick Wilson, who plays Jeff. He does a fairly decent job, and has to go through a very wide range of emotions very quickly, often switching over and over again per scene. Also, Sandra Oh shows up very, very briefly, but does play a very nice supporting role, in an otherwise small cast, consisting of a total five characters in the credits.

Another place that the film works very well in is the direction. David Slade does a very good job with pacing and style, creating a subperb tension, and unease between this two characters. You never really know which way it is going to go, and it works very well. The film also has a great visiual style and flow that it uses. The red walls that you see in the picture above, are sometimes the only major color on the screen, while everything else has been bleached out. Credit is also due to Brian Nelson, who wrote such an awesome screenplay, and kept things very equal between the characters, and dared to do something not many other people would have. Not to mention the amazing ending.


One of the few major flaws that comes with Hard Candy is the fact, that at it's core, it is basically a torture film. Granted less so than most others, this young girl does capture, taunt, tease, violate, and mutilate this man, much to her sick amusement. It doesn't help that the film also has a scene, that will have men crossing their legs, in fear for their family jewels. Hard Candy acts like it is a step above the other torture films, which it is, but that does not completely clear it of it's true face.


As a whole, Hard Candy is a very solid picture. It has a very interesting story, and payoff that will split the audience members in a half, and definatly create a stir with the group you are seeing it with. The actors all perform rather well, especially Ellen Page, who gave a solid performance for an incredibly hard role, at a relativly young age. David Slade directs well, keep the tension between these two evils at an equal, and also has a nice visual flair. It is however a torture movie, granted a very smart, and good torture movie, but still a torture movie nontheless.

I Give Hard Candy:
Four Zombi's out of Five.

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