Published May 01, 2006Hard Candy is definitely a tough one to swallow. From what you presume will happen to what actually does, there is nary a moment where you arent squirming in your seat from discomfort. Its a psychological thriller, no question about it, much in the same shocking vein as brutal revenge films like I Spit On Your Grave, Irreversible and Baise Moi, but Hard Candy comes from a different perspective that of a 14-year-old girl.
Beginning with the modern ages extreme faux pas of agreeing to meet an internet chat room pen pal in person, theres an immediate unease once the two subjects appear onscreen. Hayley (Canadian Ellen Page) is the precocious teen rendezvousing with 32-year-old professional photographer Jeff (Patrick Wilson), who just so happens to be a seductive paedophile. One thing leads to another and they end up at his somewhat secluded Cali pad. From here on in the viewer is the films plaything; the possibilities of what will happen to which character are endless. And then the twist occurs, which isnt at all surprising.
However, what screenwriter Brian Nelson does with this twist in events is surprising. After slipping Jeff a sedative, Hayley transforms her Red Riding Hood character into a merciless torturer, brutalising Jeff the Big Bad Wolf (the worst of being an "operation that will have men recoiling and anxiously crossing their legs) for his brutal actions.
Of course, there is much more to the plot than a simple game of revenge. There is a missing girl, who as far as we can tell, has been murdered, possibly by Jeff, and possibly had a relationship with Hayley, but were never certain. Luckily we never need to know its more effective as an ambiguous plot device. And then there is the closure in the final scene, where for minutes ythe audience is left hanging.
Is Hard Candy a bold example of female empowerment or simply a gratuitous revenge flick? See it and decide, but most importantly, see it. (Maple)