I’ve been sitting here with my laptop for the last few hours, and every time I get my browser’s tab count down to one there’s something new in Bloglines for me to look at. This can be an almost unending process sometimes, so I’ve pushed that temptation aside in order to get this review written. I want to have made at least some cursory observations about Hard Candy while it’s still on general release.
I want to start by saying that it was a very good film. The subject matter—a fourteen-year-old girl (Ellen Page, X-Men 3) who’s brought home by a thirty-something paedophile (Patrick Wilson, The Phanton of the Opera apparently) turns the tables on him and goes a little psycho—might sound heavy. But it’s actually very entertaining. This isn’t one of those depressing or preachy "issues" films that people watch out of a misplaced sense of moral duty. It’s slick, stylish and well paced. Every part of it is of an unusually polished quality.
The film’s visuals are very artsy. Several shots or even whole scenes look like thay started life as music videos or car ads. Almost the whole film is cast in a subdued blue, except for Page’s Little Red Riding Hood hoody (clearly she’s the Little Red Riding Hood from Roald Dahl’s Revolting Rhymes). It just plain looks cool. Not that it’s all style and no substance. The visual design is clearly in service of the mood, with the colour, for example, reflecting the artificiality of the situation that Page’s character has engineered. But mainly it just looks cool.
Everything is in close up or extreme close up, always giving the viewer the opportunity to get as much from the actors’ performances as was put in. Which is a lot. Wilson is excellent. But Page is astounding. I was honestly a little scared by how well she played that role. When I raved about her being the best thing in X-Men 3 I didn’t realise she was that good. For a seventeen-year-old (as she was at the time of filming) to carry the majority of such a performance-driven film so well is really very impressive.
There were moments when I suspected I was being preached at. There’s one scene that has Page sermonising almost directly to the camera. But overall, in retrospect, there doesn’t appear to be any siding with either character. So you’ll be relieved to know that you’re not expected to take the side of either the paedophile or the torturer. Incidentally, I read an interview with Page that suggested that she completely agreed with her character’s position. If I ever get the opportunity to meet her I’ll make sure to wear a cup. And to mix my own drink.
With all of this said, you won’t be surprised that I recommend that you see Hard Candy. However, you might want to bear the following in mind. Guys, you know when you see someone else getting hit in the balls and you can almost feel it yourself? Well in that regard, Hard Candy is the most disturbing film for a man to watch since Springfield Film Festival winner Football in the Groin. One guy actually left the cinema during what I will only describe as a crucial scene. You don’t see anything but, let’s face it, you don’t really have to. Painful viewing. But totally worth it.