Chris Hansen has just shit his pants.
Hayley Stark’s (Ellen Page) a smart, charming teenage girl – but even smart girls make mistakes. She’s hooking up in a coffee shop with Jeff Kohlver (Patrick Wilson), a guy she’s met on the internet. And even though he’s a cute, smooth high-end fashion photographer in his early 30s, Hayley shouldn’t be suggesting that the two of them go back to his house alone. When they get there, Hayley quickly finds some vodka and starts mixing screwdrivers. She even suggests a photo shoot and strips off some clothing. Everything is going well for Jeff… until his vision blurs and fades, and he passes out. What happens after this is all hell breaking loose as Hayley rains a terror on Jeff.
Basically, this film starts off like something you think you’ve seen done a million times before but then turns into a cutting thriller that almost seems like it could go anyplace at anytime. The subject matter of pedophilia is pretty effed up as it is, but I think everything they deal with here, is a lot more effed up than I could have ever imagined.
Despite being an effed up movie in the fore-front, deep beneath all of that is a character-driven drama that messes with your head about who you should feel sympathy for: the victim or the predator. That line is blurred many times throughout the whole flick as you constantly feel like one person is in the wrong for what they’re doing, but then again, you can’t help but think that this person has a reason for doing what they are doing mainly because of what they know and have against the other person. The film gets terribly uncomfortable when it comes to the decisions of who you think should get the sympathy and what that other person should do. Sometimes, I even felt guilty for sympathizing with the person I felt sympathy for but that’s the way that this flick messes with your mind and makes you think to how you would feel if you met one of these people in your life.
The film’s screenplay does bring up a lot of questions but mostly it is made just to have us on-the-edge-of-our-seats the whole entire time. Right when you think something is going to happen, director David Slade just pulls the carpet from right underneath us and gives us a scene we weren’t expecting to see next but it’s so tense and suspenseful to the point of where we can’t even sit still and watch this. It keeps on getting more twisty and more twisty as the film goes on and I think Slade did a good job at making it seem like this flick could honestly just go about anywhere and anyplace to where I just gave up predicting what was exactly going to happen next.
Let me also not forget to mention that this flick also has some very hard scenes to watch due to the extreme levels of torture that actually come around, especially one scene in particular that I refuse to say anything more about. These scenes were very effective but at the same time provided the biggest problems for me when it came to this flick. First of all, the conversations that these two have are effective enough so to just throw some torture in there seemed a bit like a cheat. Secondly, it was pretty obvious that Jeff would never really be able to do anything terrible to Hayley considering that Page was pretty young when this film was going on and I think that Slade would have had a lot more problems to deal with rather than just his subject material, if he showed anything that had her fully harmed in anyway.
However, my last point is brought up in the situation we have with the character Jeff. Yes, this character is pretty much a slime-ball who basically came to this little “meeting” to do nothing else other than bring a young girl home and try to mess around for a little bit. The guy is a shit, no doubt about that, but there are things that happen to him that I feel are very questionable. The levels of torture that this guy has to go through seemed like it was a little too torturous even for a person like Jeff himself. Maybe I’m not the right person to make that call considering I have never been through any sort of sexual experience with an older person, but then again I’m just thinking like a human. Things get terribly bad for Jeff to the point of where he is given a decision at the end and I don’t know what I would do in his situation, but by the same token, I don’t think a person should ever put to these types of limits and in the end that’s what the film is trying to show us. I probably missed the point of this flick, but I still think that this film went a little too far with its torture as well as when it came to Jeff’s circumstances. Poor pedophiles, they just want to be loved. Then again, they should watch who they message next time.
This film is essentially two people going at it with one another for a whole hour and 40 minutes but it works because of the two stars that portray them. Patrick Wilson is great in this role as Jeff. One of the main reasons why this guy is so good here is because even though we know right from the start that this guy is a dirt, he still makes us question whether or not he’s the monster we perceived him to be in the first place. Wilson constantly toys with our feelings and emotions towards how we feel for him, but it’s also a lot of the more emotional scenes that rang true for me as well considering that this is an actor that we rarely get to see so so up-front in our faces with sadness and confusion.
The real stand-out for this flick though is Ellen Page here as Hayley, aka every pedophiles worst enemy. Page is amazing here because she totally makes us think twice about her in every way. There are moments where a lot of the things she does is very questionable (honestly, how could a person plan out something like this so perfectly?) but she seems so hip, smart, and intelligent for her age that it’s also quite believable. She’s a chick that always seems one step ahead of Jeff, and even the audience, and it’s also one of those performances where Page really seems like she’s too smart for anybody’s good. She practically commands every scene and never loses sight of what this script and film was trying to say and convey.
Consensus: Hard Candy is exactly that: it’s perfectly-acted, hard to watch, tense, and makes you think about the world of internet chat and how we view sexual predators in our lives. Yes, it can get very gruesome at times but it still is a flick that will have you question certain things about how you think and feel, and if any film can do that to me then that’s a good one in my book.