In David Slade’s tight little thriller, he tackles the subject of on line grooming of teenagers…then flips it on its head. For the opening 20 minutes or so of Hard Candy, it plays like a creepy wet dream.
We see the online flirting, then the graduation to meeting face to face, then a trip back to his house this is where things get real.
Jeff (Patrick Wilson) a photographer by trade and possible paedophile in his spare time meets up with the cute, impish and certainly underage Hayley (Ellen Page). Hayley certainly plays up her age or lack thereof, while Jeff plays it cool, when Hayley suggests they go back to Jeff’s house, you almost know that something is not quite right here and you soon find out what that is.
Essentially this film could almost be a stage play with the two actors (Page and Wilson) occupying 99% of the screen time and this is where the films strength is. The highly underrated Wilson and the highly capable Page really give everything in this, both of them inhabiting their characters and really drawing you into the story.
Slade’s use of Jeff’s house/studio is very well done, the coloured walls providing a chance to break the film up into parts and also separate one segment from the next, the fact the Slade can leave his mark on this film is a testament to him really as the film doesn’t really require any directorial flashes yet he still manages to add to story.
I guess one of the criticisms of the writing is that it is that Page’s character is too smart for her but I guess that is another part of the film –
Is this girl really 14?
Is she really who she says she is?
And to be honest if you are going to think up such an elaborate trap for a would-be child abuser, then I guess you’d have to be pretty smart. I did like the way the screenplay keeps playing with you in terms of if Jeff is guilty or innocent (until the climax of course) so it rips you down the middle – Is this mini psycho torturing an innocent man or is the crazy little elf doing what most people would like to do to these kinds of people?
Very much an actor’s film, Hard Candy showcases some real talent whilst tackling a particularly icky
Images: imdb & btchflicks