Monday, August 14, 2006


Title: Hard Candy
Cast: Patrick Wilson, Ellen Page, Sandra Oh
Director: David Slade

Hayley (Ellen Page) and Jeff (Patrick Wilson) have been chatting online and have eventually arranged to meet. However Hayley is a 14-year-old girl and Jeff is a man in his 30s. Hayley is trying desperately to appear older and more interesting than she is, though as far as Jeff is concerned she can do no wrong, and he appears to hang on her every word. Desperate to hear a bootleg of a gig that Jeff was at, Halyey manages to persuade him to take her home, though he appears a little reluctant.

However. The next thing Jeff knows is he is waking up from having been drugged. He is tied to a chair in his house and Hayley is waving a knife around in a threatening manner. Hayley insists that Jeff is a paedophile, that he grooms young girls like her and then does bad things to them. Isn't it more than a coincidence that a missing girl was last seen in the same place they met? Hayley is going to take Jeff's house apart until she finds proof, and then she is going to castrate him. Jeff, of course, insists that he is innocent and that she is crazy.

Hard Candy is a psychological thriller where the tables have been turned. The prey has become the predator, and with the roles the way they are your sympathies actually tend to be with the one carrying the knife. Though as the film goes on, and Hayley shows a bloody-minded determination and Jeff becomes increasingly desperate in his protestations, you do have that slight niggle - is he innocent?

Hard Candy is a tense but understated. There aren't gallons of blood, or lots of shocks. But the male portion of the audience are likely to start squirming the closer that Hayley gets to performing the promised castration. Though by contrast, there were several women in the audience in the showing I saw who were quite vocal in cheering Hayley on. More evidence of how this film turns the tables, which is one of the most interesting things about it.

Sandra Oh is cast pointlessly as Jeff's next-door neighbour, but she has such a brief part you wonder why they bothered casting a known actress at all. For the most part this is Patrick Wilson and Ellen Page's film, almost reducing to a 2 person play, with the bulk of the film set inside Jeff's flat. The performances are pretty strong, particularly Page's who goes from flirtatious jail bait to threatening to afraid as the film rolls along - I did over hear some people criticising her performance afterwards, suggesting that she was inconsistent, but for me she was on form as the scene required.

Hard Candy - a film of entrapment, turning the tables to deliver revenge and the question of who is grooming whom.

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