movies, music and everything else

This blog is about pretty much what the title implies... movies, music and everything else.

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Saturday, April 22, 2006

sour candy

This movie made some noise at last year’s Sundance Film Festival and I can see why. HARD CANDY is the story of a fourteen year-old girl who seduces and traps a pedophile in order to teach him a lesson. To say that this is a tricky subject is an understatement. Any film that has the balls to deal with someone molesting a child treads on thin ice, but this film also deals with a man that has (possibly) killed a young girl, and a fourteen year-old that tortures a man. Any one of these subjects handled incorrectly could ruin any movie. To succeed, HARD CANDY would have to play the subject matter realistic and walk a tight rope of decency. I am sorry to say that it did not succeed…

The first of my problems with the realism of the story involves the age of the girl. Hayley is set up to be a fourteen year-old girl that uses her youth and inexperience to trap Jeff, the pedophile. Now there is no doubt that Hayley is a clever and intelligent girl, but there is not a moment that I really believe that a girl of that age would be capable of the things that Hayley does in the movie. The way in which she speaks is more like that of a twenty something college educated adult than a girl that is about to go into the eighth grade. The other thing that brings about a problem in the age is the physicality of what Haley accomplishes. There are times where we are to believe that a small girl that weighs less than 100 pounds is able to lift a fully grown man and secure him in various ways. I am sure that there are some young girls that have the brute strength necessary to accomplish such a task, but I don’t believe that she is one of them. Now there is a possibility that she is lying about her age, but it is never really addressed in the film and I think that is merely used as an excuse that people will use to justify the plot hole.

My other main problem with the film was that of the motivation of the lead character. Hayley captures and tortures this man whom she believes is guilty. Not only does she do some unthinkable things to Jeff, she does it with a maniacal sense of pleasure. Through all of this, we are never given a clear motivation for why she is there. For our lead to take such pleasure in the torture of a human being, no matter what he may have done, is not good story telling. The only reason that we are given is that she is “crazy”. I don’t know about other people, but I really don’t care to watch a story about a crazy girl and a pedophile. All that I wanted was an explanation for her rage. What could drive someone to these horrific acts of vengeance? What would it do to a girl to torture a man? These are far mare interesting questions than any that are raised in the film. In fact, there are few, if any questions at all that HARD CANDY raises. Pedophiles are bad and should be held accountable for what they do. Not exactly thought provoking or controversial. The lack of a motivation alone kept me from seeing Hayley as a person. She was simply a tool of vengeance and that really killed the movie for me.

There are good things about this film. First and foremost, both of the actors do a very good job in the film. Patrick Wilson (Jeff) is able to pull off creepy one moment, terrifying the next, and still pull off pathetic and weak. It is really an interesting look at the lengths that a person will go to when their life is on the line. I never once doubted any of his actions. There is one particular scene in the beginning where he is charming/seducing Haley that is one of the most uncomfortable moments that I have seen in recent memory. We know what he wants and he is really skilled at playing to the weaknesses of a child to get it.

Ellen Page (Hayley) delivers a fearless performance. While most of my problems lay with her character, I put the majority of the blame on the script. This is a difficult part that calls for a range of emotions and Page does a great job. The first portion of the film, she was that sweet, naive little girl that served as the prey of a monster. Then, when she makes the transition to the hunter, it is a startling transformation. This is a wonderfully fleshed out performance and really surprised me. I am excited to see what she has to offer in the future.

HARD CANDY has served as a launching point for the director, David Slade. While I did have several problems, there are moments in this film, really difficult moments, that are handled with grace and precision. The movie looks great and is fairly slick for an indie, but there is an emotional openness that he creates between the characters that really impressed. Most of the time, he was perfect with the tone of a really difficult picture. It is no wonder that he landed a high profile studio project as his follow up.

There is a lot of talk about HARD CANDY because of its subject matter and it is no doubt an interesting film. It steps up to the plate and takes a powerful swing at a really touchy subject. For that alone it deserves recognition. For me it missed the mark, but I recommend checking it out and deciding for yourselves.


Anonymous movie buzz said...

I just screened this film at LGF last night. I was quite intrigued for the first forty minutes. Then it all kind of fell apart for me. In it's best moments this film explores the complexities of vengeance and psychology. It tries to be clever by pulling a role reversal -- but this eventually wears thin and the dialog becomes didactic and contrived.

1:37 AM  

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