Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Review: Hard Candy (David Slade, 2005)

Hard Candy: A movie I should have watched years ago. I remember the acclaim behind it when it was first released which should have been a reason to watch it then, but even years later as my love for Ellen Page platituded with her performances in Inception, Super and Juno, I should have watched it on general Ellen Page fanboysim. I’m glad to have spent time with Hard Candy over the weekend as it might be Page’s best performance; so early in her career too.

Hayley Stark (Page) gains the attention of Jeff Kohlver (Patrick Wilson, also best known in Insidious and Saw) from an online chat room. It is quickly brought to attention that Hayley is 14 years old and Jeff is over 30 and later we find out Hayley is gaining the attention of Jeff because she beliefs he is a pedophile. She gains access to his home and for the next 70 minutes, viewers will be stricken with a convincing performance from Page and some chilling (and shocking) revelations.

The shock factor and adrenalin rush is what made the movie so enjoyable, but it was not filmed-to-shock like other movies like the Human Centipede or Hostel. Those movies were specifically created for the sole purpose of gratuitous shock values. In Hostel, there’s a scene where there is torture being performed on a young girl and when the torturer turns around the camera specifically focuses on the violence. Hard Candy shocks from mostly dialog and what isn’t shown on screen. But what makes it so believable is Ellen Page’s on screen presence, her brutality, maturity but yet still holding on to a teenage innocence. She was 18 when Hard Candy was filmed (maybe 17) but her maturity as an actress shines through.

It’s unknown what multiple viewings will do to my appreciation of this movie; there are a few twists and turns that would draw away from a second viewing. But one thing is certain, Hard Candy with a cast of 5, is among some of the best dialog driven thrillers I have ever seen.