Hard Candy – The Tables Have Turned

Let me first preface the review with a disclaimer; this is a very hard film to watch. It can’t compete with the likes of the torture porn subgenre in the gore department, but it’s what you don’t see that haunts you.

Ellen Page in a Red Hood in Hard Candy

Ellen Page plays a 14-year-old girl called Hayley Stark, the film starts with a view of a chat conversation she’s having online with 32-year-old photographer Jeff Kohlver (Patrick Wilson). She arranges to meet him in public in a coffee place, flirting excessively she seems to be baiting the dangerous Kohlver. She then proceeds to invite herself round to Jeff’s apartment, setting the stage for the sado masochistic hell that follows.

Jeff gives Hayley a tour of his apartment and photography studio and then offers her an alcoholic beverage. Hayley refuses saying she knows better than to drink something she hasn’t mixed herself ,and offers to make screwdrivers (a vodka and orange drink). She ironically spikes Jeff’s drink causing him to fall unconscious. Jeff wakes up tied to a chair; this marks a symbolic shift in the film, the predator has now become the prey. Hayley reveals that it is she who has been stalking him, talking to him on different chat rooms using a variety of aliases and reveals that whenever she created someone who was older than 14 he lost interest.

What ensues is a host of sadistic mind games played by Hayley who is now just toying with him. She reveals it is her intention to castrate him and allows him to beg and plead before revealing that nothing he could say would change her mind. The audience is then treated to some excruciatingly difficult scenes with no actual gore but delicately implied violence, somehow more sickening than if they were to show the real thing. The film reverses the audience perception of teenage innocence, a teenage girl is shown to be committing acts of unspeakable violence and depravity.

Jeff is tied to a chair

 The film challenges the audience, begging the question; who here is the real monster? If there is was a film that has the power to make the audience sympathize with the pedophile Hard Candy comes too close for comfort. The film plays off this by casting Wilson who beats the conventional  pedophile character stereotype. Instead of a withdrawn, unsociable man in his 40’s his character is charming, good-looking and personable; the combination of these factors makes it even harder to watch him suffer the unspeakable acts of violence at the hands of a 14-year-old girl. The final scene is intensely symbolic, Hayley leaves the house in her Red hood; a reference to the childhood tale Red Riding Hood, except in this tale it is Red Riding Hood who traps the wolf. The film leaves several questions in the minds of the audience. Does Jeff deserve what happens to him? What are the extent of his crimes? Is Hayley insane? The film leaves specifics such as these deliberately ambiguous, leaving the audience to decide for themselves.

The acting of both Page and Wilson is astonishing and Page is utterly believable in her role. She succeeds in maintaining the childlike innocence and naivety of a young teenager while managing to portray a dangerous and unstable personality.  In conclusion while the film inspires outrage, revulsion and sorrow there is a lot that makes this movie great, with the acting, dialogue and execution all exemplary.

Rating

  • Acting: 5/5
  • Direction: 3/5
  • Entertainment: 3/5
  • Second Viewing Value: 2/5
  • Overall: 3/5

Trivia

  • The parking structure scene was shot on the roof of the garage that serves the Arclight Cinemas Hollywood theater complex. When the film was shown in that theater, many patrons were technically watching the scene unfold in the same spaces where their cars were parked.
  • 300 girls auditioned for the role of Hayley.
  • The parking structure scene was shot on the roof of the garage that serves the Arclight Cinemas Hollywood theater complex. When the film was shown in that theater, many patrons were technically watching the scene unfold in the same spaces where their cars were parked.
  • The final shot of Hayley with the hoody pulled over her head was taken by the DP Jo Willems without Ellen Page knowing. She didn’t know about the shot until she saw the final cut.
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One response to “Hard Candy – The Tables Have Turned

  1. Pingback: Catfish – A Depressive Exercise in The Surreal | Movie Pastry – Hot Freshly-Baked Movie Reviews·

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