November 05, 2006

MOVIES: Hard Candy (David Slade, 2006)

Hayley (Ellen Page) is chatting on her computer, using the screen name "thonggrrl14," and flirting up a storm with "lensman319." They've been flirting for a few weeks now, and she finally agrees to meet him at a local coffee shop. He is Jeff (Patrick Wilson), a photographer in his early 30s, and when they meet, the flirtation continues. It's clear that both of them want to go back to Jeff's place, but neither is willing to be the one who makes the suggestion -- Jeff because "I'm not a pedophile," and Hayley because she knows that her perceived innocence is what's turning Jeff on -- so there's a lot of verbal tap-dancing as each allows the other to pretend that they're not after what they're both after.

The games continue at Jeff's house, as Hayley mixes screwdrivers for them and they chat about Jeff's photographs. But Hayley's innocence is phony in more ways than one, and she's hidden her ultimate goals and motives far better than Jeff has hidden his. Hard Candy becomes a very intense psychological battle of wits, mind games, and torture -- emotional and physical.

The story goes a bit over the top at times, and if you took too much time to think about it, the plot holes might overwhelm you. But you're not given much time to think, and Wilson and Page are so ferociously committed to their roles that you're carried through the dodgier moments by the strength of their performances. Page is particularly good; in a just world, she'd be on everyone's short list for a Best Actress nomination. She's convincing as a 14-year-old, which is rare when older teens play that much younger, and she makes Hayley's transformation from flirty child to vicious avenger completely believable.

The intensity of the action is a little tough to take in spots (and one sequence in particular will be especially difficult for men to watch), but Page and Wilson make Hard Candy a terrific revenge thriller

1 comment:

Reel Fanatic said...

I have to agree with you soundly on this one .. .though it is indeed more than a little uncomfortable to watch at times, it's a great psychological thriller in the vein of Polanski's "Death and the Maiden"