Hard Candy

2005 drama

Rating: 13/20

Plot: 14-year-old Juno MacGuff, prior to getting knocked up by that menace-to-society Jesse Eisenberg, chats online with a 32-year-old photographer named Jeff for three weeks before suggesting they meet in a coffeehouse. They go back to his bitchin' pad for some screwdrivers, one which she spikes. Jeff passes out, waking up later to find out that he's been tied to a chair with a bag on his head. It's not what he had in mind. Juno turns out to be neither naive or innocent as she proceeds to torture Jeff mentally and ransack his apartment in an effort to expose him as the pedophile she thinks he is.

This is the second Cory recommendation I've watched this month that has both Patrick Wilson and a pedophile being mistreated. I think this means that Patrick Wilson is Cory's new favorite actor, but I'm not sure.

Probably the less you know about Hard Candy, the better chance you'll end up enjoying it if this sort of psychological thriller is your bag. This will likely have spoilers. I went in knowing nothing, and although I wasn't caught completely off guard when it transforms into a very dark tale of revenge, there were still lots and lots of surprises. When a movie's really got only two performers, their story is only going to work if both of them are good. With Hard Candy, that's the case for the most part, although both are kind of a mixed bag thanks to a sloppy script. Ellen Page plays naive and vulnerable and innocently flirtatious really well, and I was really impressed with the job she did during the first twenty minutes of the movie. When she turns into a complete psychopath, I thought her character was a bit too snarky and sneering. She ended up really annoying. Cory's new favorite actor was excellent in a role that must have been physically and mentally exhausting. He's good as both sneaky predator and victim. The problems I had with the characters wasn't with the acting; it was that I didn't really feel like I could root for either of them. You can't root for a pedophile in a movie no matter how many times he cries out, "I'm not a pedophile." And Page's character was, as I said, a bratty psychopath. The dialogue became less and less realistic as the story went along, and I didn't end up believing either character. A lot of the problem was the script. "C'mon, Jeff...shoot me. C'mon, Jeff...shoot me." Oh, boy. And the "I'm every little girl..." line was really heavyhanded. This is also one of these modern stories that tries to shock and then shock you again with more twists than a story this size can possibly contain. The best example of how these twists do nothing more than mess up the story is when a third character, Sandra Oh as a neighbor, pops up and Ellen Page's character suddenly turns into a complete moron. The tortuous complications in Hard Candy end up seeming more like distractions than anything else. I didn't care much for the style of this movie either. The scene with the characters driving from coffee place to Jeff's home actually made me laugh. There are alternating shots of Jeff and Juno exchanging this glances that lasts for at least fifteen minutes. No exaggeration. And the "stylish" close-up of Juno's lips saying "Juicy" was a little too much. Hard Candy is a movie that definitely took some chances, and the two leads gave some brave, demanding, and mostly-good performances. Unfortunately, any messages writer Brian Nelson and director David Slade might have wanted to deliver seem either conflicting or drowning in the entanglements of the psychological thrills, and I didn't end up liking it very much. I will say this--the lengthy operation scene at the heart of this film was really intense.


cory said...

That was a very solid review, and this definitely is a very subjective film. You touch on all of the reasons I really like and recommend this. It is extremely shocking and surprising. I noticed about 30 minutes in that my jaw was locked in the dropped position. The acting is some of the best I have seen in a long time (before the film gets a little too contrived). About 31 minutes in I silently declared to myself that the unknown Ellen Page was going to be a star and that I was going to keep an eye on her career (not in a creepy way or anything). I also really like that the film dares to go really dark while still trying to say something(third parenthetical note is that I would have respected it much more if she had actually done the deed). "Hard Candy" is not flawless, but it is very interesting, entertaining, and shocking. I knew it was a risky pick, so thanks for checking it out. A 17, for me.

Replacement: I would normally have gotten to this later, but "Watch on the Rhine" is on TCM tomorrow.

Shane said...

I think I would have liked this more if Page's character wasn't so sure of herself. It just made her seem like a second bad guy instead of somebody who was doing anything close to noble. The little wisecracks, the cutesy clever putdowns...I could have done without all that.

This reminds me that I need to give 'Juno' another chance. That's one of the movies on the blog that I think I rated much too low, probably because I was in a bad mood or something.

I think I'll have TCM tomorrow...I'll have to watch 'Rhine' tomorrow or the next day though because we're getting rid of all those channels.

Barry said...

I was less impressed with this than Cory. By the midway point, I didnt have any interest in either character. The Wilson character is a scumball, and the Page character is a sadist. By the second or third time he is knocked out, and then put in another predicament, I was forcing myself to continue watching.

A 13 is about right...maybe even a 12. It might have been more interesting if there was some actual ambivalence about the Wilson character being guilty, but there wasnt. He was a turd, and Page was playing games with him. Held very little interest for me past the opening 20 minutes.

Yeah..a 12.