has an extremely disturbing, but all too common, start.
A thirtyish man (Patrick Wilson) who works as a photographer meets a
fourteen-year-young girl (Ellen Page) on the internet. They hook up for
coffee, she goes back to his place to hear some music and see his
photography equipment. He lets her have liquor, they flirt a bit, she
offers to allow him to photograph her.
However, as Hard Candy
shows, sometimes who exactly is the predator in a relationship is not as
obvious as you would assume. The young girl drugs his drink and he
awakes tied to his office chair as she rants to him about being a pervert
and how she is going to expose his sins.
The movie puts you into the
somewhat morally questionable position of having to feel sympathy for a man
who appears to be a pedophile. In his encounter with the girl, he skirts the edges of the law and
decency without actually going over the line (well, he does with the liquor), but at the very least he has
made some very sleazy, questionable decisions. As the film goes on and
you do learn more and more the depths of his depravities, however, they are
extracted by a young woman who seems equally disturbed.
is not really interested in trying to understand his sick compulsion and
what makes him tick, like Kevin Bacon's much subtler and yet still very
disturbing The Woodsman. Hard Candy is much more of a
modern horror film — a Misery or Fatal Attraction for the
internet porn era.
Nor does it really explore
her motivations. Beyond the obvious, why did she assign herself
guardian angel? She may or may not be the friend of a little girl who
disappeared after meeting with the photographer. In the early scenes,
it almost does seem like she is entrapping him somewhat, committing a
catalogue of actions that pedophiles use as excuses. However, like she says, that is no
excuse, she is fourteen years old, after all. Or is she? While
it is never explicitly said or even hinted, she does certainly act older
than she claims to be.
It is a truly horrifying
tale, played out almost entirely by the two actors (there are three other
characters who appear in the entirety of the movie, and they only have one
brief scene apiece.) And the acting is stunning. Page is by
turns sweetly innocent and coldly evil playing a role which could have
easily been one-dimensional and clichéd. Wilson sells his character
well enough that we do want to give him the benefit of the doubt that he is
as innocent as he claims, until finally we can't ignore the weight of the
Hard Candy is not an
easy movie to watch. In the end, both of the main characters are
repugnant, in totally different ways. It is a fascinating and scary
film, though — opening a window on an area of life that most of us would
never want to peer into. (9/06)
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Posted: September 26, 2006.