I heard about Hard Candy when it came out, but since I couldn’t catch it in the theater, it fell off my radar. Last night in Blockbuster it caught my eye. Mainly, I was hoping for something that would be a fair trade for staying up past my bedtime.
Instead, I ended up with a movie so good I was pumped after seeing it.
There isn’t much plot to the movie. It is an exploration of two people, one of them not at all what they seem to be. It’s a bloodless, sexless horror movie that is and isn’t about blood, sex and horror. Rarely has a movie taken me through amazement, revulsion, sympathy, laugh-out-loud black humor, reversal of loyalties, suspense, horror-movie satire and genuine horror too. This post contains some small spoilers, so don’t read past here if you plan on seeing it.
The director loves his close-ups, which actually helps the movie. Both actors are capable of expressing volumes in a flick of their eyes or twist of their lips. Most amazing of all is the performance of Ellen Page (Haley) who was 18 playing a very believable 14 year old. [spoiler] By the end of the movie, we realize just how much she was playing and her performance is even stronger for it. [/spoiler] This is an actress to watch. She has more talent in her smile than major actresses with an entire crew and CGI team behind them.
[spoiler] Haley is a girl who entraps a pedophile, then seems to go psycho. Funniest of all are schlock horror-movie lines spouted by a teenage girl with a gamine haircut (more Jean Seberg than Audrey Hepburn) and black Chuck Taylors. I laughed until it hurt during these moments. The actress delivered the lines knowing full well what she was doing. Great moments in movie history.[/spoiler]
Like I said earlier, the movie runs a gamut of emotions that I never expected to find in one single movie. [spoiler] Haley’s choice of costume in the final frame is the perfect, self-aware final comment. [/spoiler] Although Hard Candy does skewer a lot of horror movie conventions, it didn’t do it at the expense of the characters. Everything seemed realistic, as long as you understand this is a girl with a lot of time on her hands. [spoiler] (And apparently the strength the move around the dead weight of a man.) [/spoiler]
Jeff (her fly) isn’t standard either. I went from being skeeved out by him, to sort of liking him, to pitying him, then not. The actors effortlessly allowed me to bounce my sympathies between the two, until the end. [spoiler] Frankly, I’ve always had a soft spot for vigilantes. [/spoiler]
The only gripes I had with it was that Jeff seemed to have shaved between the coffee shop and his house. [spoiler] And the CD that Haley pulls out of his safe is never played. I want to know what’s on it! [/spoiler] A maxim in playwriting is that if you show a gun on the mantle in Act I, it must go off in Act III. So if you show a CD during a pivotal scene, show us what’s on the damn CD!
Still, it was a joy to watch. It never got boring and only one spot (right at the end) was predictable. Even though I predicted the line, I didn’t predict the outcome. But I wasn’t worrying about figuring it out. The movie was entertaining enough that I was happy to go along for the ride.
Hard Candy is truly a delicious little movie that is going to roll around in your head for some time.
Warning: if you have serious issues with pedophilia, victimization or want blood and guts with your horror, then you might want to pass. [spoiler] Oh, by the way, it may be a little difficult for most men to watch. (Evil giggle here.) [/spoiler]