Hard Candy (USA; 103 min.)

directed by: Kevin Willmott
starring: Ellen Page; Patrick Wilson; Sandra Oh
Hard Candy
Michael says: "It’s difficult reviewing a film that has been so anticipated, and has been much discussed and speculated about for months before its actual release. Fortunately, HARD CANDY is a film, that while not perfect, lives up to the high expectations that I had placed upon it. HARD CANDY is an intense film; that kind of psychological thriller that works on so many levels, but is so easy to misinterpret and react to without understanding what the film is and what it is not. HARD CANDY is not a film trying to make a statement or judgment about pedophiles. Nor is it a traditional horror film, which some may expect and be disappointed. What it is, is a thoughtful, bold, incredibly well-acted examination of a lot of issues, that are thrown out to the viewer in order for them to think about things and come to their own conclusions.

"Fourteen-year-old Hayley chats with the thirtyish Jeff in the suggestive manner that we’ve come to expect and sometimes fear from teenagers on the internet. They make a date to meet and before you know it, she’s going home with him. Alarm bells will be ringing in most audience members heads before this point, and things grow increasingly more uncomfortable as the two flirt and drink in Jeff’s apartment. Of course, what most people going to see this film will already know is that Hayley isn’t the clueless, innocent teenager she appears to be. Before you know it, Hayley has turned the tables on Jeff, beginning an incredibly dangerous cat & mouse game where truths are slowly and painfully revealed.

"Much of the anticipation around HARD CANDY for Chlotrudis members surrounds its young star Ellen Page who was a guest at the 11th Annual Awards Ceremony and impressed us all with her poise, talent and intelligence. Her portrayal of Hayley is remarkable, and it’s thrilling to watch her mature and grow as an actor. Patrick Wilson handles his difficult role remarkably well and the two actors elevate the film to a level that it easily could have missed. First-time feature film writer Brian Nelson has graduated from television in a big way, turning in a complex, intense script that exceeds expectations in its exploration of guilt while narrowly avoiding most pitfalls save for a couple of easily overlooked bumps in the plot. Music video director David Slade has surely made his mark with this debut feature film. Filming in panavision yet filling his film with extreme close-ups, he maintains an expansive view while heightening the claustrophobia of the situation. The film does a superlative job at making the audience uncomfortable and on the edge of their seats without resorting to cheap tricks or implausible scenarios.

"Make no mistake, HARD CANDY is intense, and might be too much for some viewers, but it stays away from anything explicit and makes its points with words and ideas more than graphic images. I was thoroughly blown away by HARD CANDY, and will recommend it to all. 5 cats"

Bruce says: "**Spoilers**

"HARD CANDY hopefully has not spawned a new film genre: Teenage Vigilante.

"The story is simple. A precocious, well-read (knowledgable in subjects of date rape drugs, stun guns, knot tying, and castration) 14 year old girl meets a 32 year old pedophile on line and agrees to a public meeting. She suggests they go to his place and, once there, she becomes the predator, not the prey.

"The plot for me is problematic. I’ve tried to imagine how I would deal with the film if it were a 14 year old boy and a pedophile. Or just two grown men. Two adults: one male, one female. No matter what combination I come up, with my imaginary plot doesn’t work any better. Coming up with a moral lesson is even more difficult. Is HARD CANDY telling us revenge is rewarding? Taking the law into one’s own hands is honorable? Coercing or cajoling someone to suicide is not murder? Is psychological torture considered justifiable if the victim is a dirty pig? Do two wrongs make a right? You probably got the point a couple of questions ago.

"This film might go over big with Megan’s Law supporters. And I’m sure that any parent who sees HARD CANDY will be uneasy about letting their children near a computer. But that is adding fuel to flames that should not necessarily exist in the first place. It is a strange coincidence that Sandra Oh makes a cameo appearance near the end. She also appears in another of the year’s more controversial films, SORRY, HATERS, a cautionary tale in which the message is somewhat clearer and better presented.

"On some points such as the acting and visual design I’m inclined to agree with Michael. Ellen Page elevates the film many notches with her outstanding performance and Patrick Wilson creates is a more than respectable foil for her antics. My personal opinion is that HARD CANDY is schlock film making, slightly upgraded by excellent cinematography and superb acting. 1.5 cats"

Michael responds: "How about this? Hayley only exists in Jeff's mind as a manifestation of his guilt which ultimately leads him to commit suicide. That possibility makes the film more multi-faceted and interesting to me. I definitely think there's more to it than the scenarios you mentioned above. Although if the film gets people to talk about those issues, that's a good thing. I think those are all good questions that the film wants us to think about, and by making BOTH of the characters somewhat unsympathetic, it makes those questions a little less clear.

"Sorry you didn't like it, but people have been pretty split about it."

Scot says: "I quite enjoyed this film. What I like most about it is how quickly it makes viewers jump up on their high horses and soapboxes. And I'm including myself there. Neat, once you can step back and see that.

But I really don't see the comparison to a slasher film. No one is murdered (directly) and there really isn't any gore, unless you count the grainy surgical video. And that's not even showing anything actually happening in the film.

I believe Michael got the metaphorical interpretation from things the filmmakers related in interviews. I don't believe it was their intention to make Haley a figment in a literal sense. But I believe that they were receptive to the interpretation that she's a manifestation of Jeff's guilt after Sundance audiences raised the possibility. It's certainly one possible way to view the film."