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Hard Candy (2005)

January 13, 2010

6/10 Jailbait Vigilantes

Pedophiles, just be glad you got Chris Hansen instead of Ellen Page.

Hard Candy is about a grown man who manages to seduce a 14-year-old girl via an instant messaging convo and a subsequent coffee date. The girl plays along, he takes her back to his home, they start to get comfortable, then she turns the tables on the creep and teaches him a lesson he’ll never forget.

Now, this is one crazy movie. This is one that’ll stick with you for a good while after and get you talking like gangbusters not only because of the way it handles the subject matter but also because of the limits it keeps on pushing. It helps that it’s got a knock-out poster, premise and title to draw you in, but novelties aside, this really is one fucked up little monster.

At its core, Hard Candy is very character-driven head trip in that its main goal is to present you with this touchy subject and continually try to wane your sympathies between the predator and the prey as the role of victim is blurred to the point where it’s almost uncomfortable. There’s really only two characters to worry about, but given their circumstances and ulterior motives, two ends up being the perfect number.

In the left corner, we have Hayley – played by the brilliant Ellen Page. This Hayley’s something else. Your first impression of her is that she’s either super naive or a total skank who’s way too young to be doing anything other than listening to Miley, but despite her exterior, it’s easy to see that she’s pretty sharp for her age. That surprisingly mature quality of hers is at once a selling point as it makes her endlessly interesting to watch as she transforms, though I can’t help but think that she’s almost too smart for her own good.

There were times when I found myself wondering if someone can actually be this smart and play out such a complicated scheme so effortlessly, especially a 14 year-old. I sure as hell wouldn’t be able to keep my cool like she does and I’m 23. Then again, Ellen Page does rock. The hair cut is questionable, but she still steals the show. Doesn’t hurt that she’s got the most fascinating character to begin with.

And as for the right corner, we have Jeff – played by Patrick Wilson, who seems to be just fine as an actor. Here’s the thing with Jeff, the guy’s a piece of shit. That’s because he’s trying to hook up with a minor and he keeps on trying to weasel his way out of things when both the audience and Hayley know damn well that he is in fact trying to hook up with a minor. By all accounts, this is a guy who could use a time out.

But Jeff’s role and ultimate punishment is also the one big problem I have with this movie. I know it’s just a movie and all, but considering the subject matter, it takes on a whole new kind of meaning. Also, I’m in no place to say what degree of punishment is appropriate for someone like Jeff, but by the same token, who is? Let’s just say that things get pretty bad for Jeff, and the sympathy you might feel for him is merely due credit I direct to the filmmakers, but I can’t help but feel like it eventually gets too bad for him.

Not trying to justify his character or morals or actions or any of that jazz, but I don’t know, I couldn’t justify his fate (probably not the word for it, but you get the gist). Yeah, he is given the chance to end it and walk away, but I really can’t say what I would do if I were in his shoes either.

Anyway, sorry if this thing turned into a review of sorts for those of you who have already seen the movie, but what can I say, it’s one hell of a talking point. Now, if you haven’t seen Hard Candy and you’re jivin’ for some intense, in-your-face stuff that’ll finally satiate that void in your life now that To Catch a Predator is gone, I’d say go ahead and give it a looksee. It’s a very crisp-looking movie, it’s got some pretty solid performances from its two leads and it will most definitely get that moral compass a-spinnin’. 

And, yes, it is every bit as creepy as its poster.

10 Comments leave one →
  1. January 13, 2010 5:15 am

    My review’s below, slightly higher score, but don’t disagree with much above. I had nightmares of dates gone wrong for months and will never forget some of the climactic moments in the film.

    This made Predator look like an Adam Sandler rom-com: “why don’t you take a seat? How old are you? Is that beer and condoms? Were you going to use them? Naughty naughty!!!”

  2. January 13, 2010 8:01 am

    you guys are scaring me now. i want to see this, but am scared now.
    mind you, i finally managed to sit through all of requiem for a dream the other night, so im not a complete wuss

  3. January 13, 2010 9:53 am

    Don’t be scare Ross. This is not *such* a hard watch!

    I agree with your review – and the one from Paragraph Film too, who mostly say the same thing – The only major flaw, as you both say, is that a real 14 y-o little girl couldn’t really execute that plan with such ease.

  4. mcarteratthemovies permalink
    January 13, 2010 10:53 am

    This one’s a personal favorite — love Patrick Wilson (when he’s not pretending to be a superhero, a la “Watchmen”) and Ellen Page.

    Also, you’re one of my picks for a Kreativ Blogger award. Participate if you dare.

  5. Branden permalink
    January 13, 2010 12:40 pm

    Check my blog, because I given you an award.

  6. January 13, 2010 12:41 pm

    @Aiden: I just nominated your blog for the Kreativ Blogger Award 😉

    • January 13, 2010 1:11 pm

      Whoa, you guys rock! I’m truly flattered. How do I know if I actually win one of these wonderful little awards?

  7. January 16, 2010 12:50 am

    This is the only film I’ve ever skipped a scene while watching. Yea, “that” scene. That’s where I might agree with you on the whole Jeff getting a harsher punishment than he deserves.

    Then again, I’ve wondered if the Hayley character might be less of an actual person and more of a manifestation of pure, unrestrained justice. Something about her made her seem inhuman. Just a crazy theory I thought I’d throw out there.

  8. Matthew T. Dalldorf permalink
    January 9, 2012 5:30 am

    “Something about her made her seem inhuman.”

    That would be the script and the fact that Brian Nelson didn’t create a character so much as a mouthpiece for pretentious “dialogue.” Needless to say, I also found this hard to watch, but not for the reasons listed above.

    • February 6, 2012 11:14 am

      Well said, can’t really argue with that. Not an easy movie to watch any way you cut it.

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