Saturday, October 19, 2013

Hard Candy

Originally Written and Posted at on 10/31/06 w/ Additional Edits.

Directed by David Slade and written by Brian Nelson, Hard Candy tells the story of a 14-year old girl whose chats with a 30-year old photographer on the Internet leads to a meeting in a coffee shop. Things start out innocently where suddenly, things start to take a turn for the worse. Set into a dark, thriller genre, Hard Candy is a film where the Lolita-character takes revenge only to confuse on who is the victim. Starring Patrick Wilson, Ellen Page, and Sandra Oh. Hard Candy is a thrilling, provocative film from David Slade.

Chatting on the Internet in a discussion relating to sex, a 14-year old girl named Hayley (Ellen Page) wants to meet up with the person she's chatting with at a coffee shop. She waits at the shop carrying a book bag full of books where she meets a 30-something photographer named Jeff (Patrick Wilson). Jeff, is revealed to be the man she's been chatting with as the two go into discussion about photography, books, and music where she claims to be a fan of Goldfrapp and missed the show. He tells her that he has a bootleg back in his house and she wants to hear it. After buying her a t-shirt, Jeff decides to take Hayley to his house in the hills near Los Angeles. She sees his somewhat, posh house that included pictures of young women on the wall and a small studio.

After a conversation and talks about photos, Hayley decides to drink with Jeff where everything starts out innocently as he decides to take photographs of her. Then suddenly, he passes out and wakes up finding himself tied to a chair. Hayley then officially revealed her motives where she suspects that he's really a pedophile who shoots child pornography and hiding young girls where one of them is missing. He knows what she's talking about but claims that he's not the guy that's been capturing young girls. Immediately, the two go into a battle of mind games where he suspect that she's a young girl lashing out on her anger probably due to the neglect of her parents. She scoffs otherwise at his assumptions as she continues to try and make him confess about the missing girls.

Even as they engage in conversations about his role as an adult and herself as a kid, things get more tense in his attempts to escape where he's now tied up where she decides to perform a mental game of torture. The result makes him reveal a story as a kid where the suspicion of his possible pedophilia might be revealed as things start to wind down. After another attempt to escape falters, Hayley makes a deal with Jeff into doing where making things worse, his ex-girlfriend Janelle (Jennifer Holmes) has been called and a neighbor (Sandra Oh) is being suspicious after seeing Hayley on a roof earlier. Finally, the battle between the two comes to a point where ultimately, the truth is revealed with some damaging results.

The subject of pedophilia is something that not everyone will do but screenwriter Brian Nelson takes the subject as a revenge tale of sorts of a young girl wanting to go after a suspected pedophile and turns it into a thriller. With some stylized yet confrontational dialogue, the film moves as a psychological thriller where the audience is trying to understand the motives and truths behind everything. Then there's the stylized yet ominous direction of David Slade that captures everything with great intensity. The energy of some of the film's dramatic moments are captured while being aware that the film is really about characters and dialogue rather than a plot, which there isn't much of. Still, Slade's direction is amazing and fluid to create an atmosphere that is tense.

Helping Slade in his unique vision is cinematographer Jo Willems whose sharp color schemes in the film's first act ranging from the wooden look of the coffee shop, to the grainy brightness of the exterior parking lot to the more colorful look Jeff's house. Willems' photography is amazing in how it shifts from a normal color scheme to a more tinted, brighter, blueish color to convey something that is dramatic and stylistic. Editor Art Jones also plays to the film's stylistic approach with some wonderful editing that slows a few things down but during the film's intense moments involving action, the editing is fast and energetic while slowing down for more engaging shots. Production designer Jeremy Reed and art director Felicity Nove do wonderful work in the design of Jeff's studio and his house that plays to the film's eerie look and claustrophobic feel.

Costume designer Jennifer Johnson also plays to the film's color with Hayley's red hooded coat and the sexy clothing she wears early on to the gritty jeans that she wears in the second and third act. Sound editor Richard Taylor also adds to the film's claustrophobic tone with some eerie sounds that is accompanied by the eerie, plaintive score work of Harry Escott and Molly Nyman.

The film features a small cast that includes Odessa Rae (being credited as Jennifer Holmes) in the role of Jeff's girlfriend and a strange cameo from Sandra Oh of Grey's Anatomy and Sideways as a neighbor selling girl scout cookies and asking Hayley about a babysitting offer. Noted stage actor Patrick Wilson, whose previous works included The Alamo, Phantom of the Opera, and Angels in America gives a solid, complex performance as Jeff. Wilson's performance is brilliant as a man who starts off being a bit creepy yet charming only to become a victim where the audience end up sympathizing for him, even if he might or might not be a bad person. Still, it's a great performance from Wilson.

The film's real breakthrough is Ellen Page, a 19-year old Canadian with several Canadian and American TV movie and low-budget indies to her credit before appearing in recent films like Mouth to Mouth and X-Men 3: The Last Stand. Page brings an angst and innocence to her role where she starts off as this cute young girl reminiscent of early Natalie Portman. Then when Page goes into darker territory, her angst and energy is unstoppable and eerie to watch. Her multi-layered, engaging performance is something that is very unmatched with some of today's young actresses as Ellen Page proved to be the real thing.

Despite some uncomforting moments and unconventional tactics, Hard Candy is one of 2006's most uncompromising and provocative features. With Brian Nelson's script, David Slade's stylish directing, and the performances of Ellen Page and Patrick Wilson. This is a film that will shock audiences and will leave them uncomfortable while thinking about the horrors of pedophilia. In the end, Hard Candy isn't an easy film to swallow but definitely brings a lot of energy and style to the thriller genre.

© thevoid99 2013


TheVern said...

Great review. I loved the acting from both Wison and Page. They just give it they're all and it's incredible. When Juno came out and I was working at a video store I would always recommend that they also get Hard Candy too.

thevoid99 said...

Thank you. I always liked this film and knew that Ellen Page was someone to watch for. She's awesome.

Chris said...

I agree the film has uncomforting moments, but I was surprised how thought-provoking the movie is. The screenplay doesn't tell us what to think.

thevoid99 said...

@Chris-That's one of the reasons why I liked the film because of that script. Plus, it just allows to see who is telling the truth or not w/o the need for exposition.