by Kim Voynar, published on October 16, 2009|
Finally, a film about hot, tattooed roller derby chicks.
Whip It!, Drew Barrymore's directorial debut, is not just a good time at the movies, but a smart film about female empowerment and what it means to be a tough chick, even if you're not the biggest, meanest bitch on the wheels. It's exactly the kind of movie we need to see more of for teen girls.
Whip It! is also the post-Juno follow-up film for a symbol of modern, young feminism, Ellen Page. Page has became a fashionable target among the wanna-be- smarter-than-thou film criticism intelligentsia. But oh, what time and publicity can do to people's perspectives.
Most of us found Page for the first time in 2005. In Hard Candy, she played Hayley, a seemingly innocent 14-year-old caught up in a deadly mind game with a photographer who may or may not be a pedophile and the murderer of a missing girl. In one scene, Page has Patrick Wilson's "Jeff" strapped down to a table, naked from the waist down, a bag of ice on his genitals. She's preparing, she tells him matter-of-factly, to castrate him. He begs and pleads, excuses and justifies, cries and promises. Hayley tosses back her head with a derisive laugh and says, "What, didn't Roman Polanksi just win an Oscar?"
20+ years after Polanski seduced a 13-year-old with the promise of fame, augmented by champagne and a half-quaalude, Hard Candy's photographer mixes a drink for a 14-year-old girl. She stammers something about how kids her age have been warned never to accept a drink fixed by someone else, dumps out the drinks he made, and makes a pair of fresh screwdrivers. When he wakes up strapped to a chair, Hayley's baby-faced innocence is replaced by a hard, calculating stare. That rule about not accepting drinks made by someone else, she notes mockingly, doesn't just apply to kids.
Roman Polanski's lucky he'll be dealing with the court system and not an avenging angel of raped and murdered girls in the innocent guise of a pixie haircut, open smile and red hoodie.
Let me be as clear here as Hayley is with Jeff in Hard Candy: a grown man with a sexual attraction to, or preference for, teenage girls, is not normal and not "okay," no matter how much he justifies to himself that the girl "wasn't innocent," or "was flirting with him first" or "dressed provocatively" or "wanted it." This is true in Hard Candy, and it was true three decades ago when Polanski drugged and raped a 13-year-old who, like Hayley, was a little girl "barely past her first period."
The Hollywood glitterati coming out to support Polanski are full of shit. They are failing to separate Polanski the artist (and yes, he is gifted in his art, but that changes nothing about his actions with regard to this girl) from Polanski the Holocaust survivor (yes, that's very sad -- my own grandparents are also Holocaust survivors, but my grandfather,and most men who survived the Holocaust, did not become rapists of young girls as a result of that trauma) from Polanski the child rapist.
Polanski didn't "have sex" with a young girl. He didn't commit statutory rape, regardless of what charges he agreed to accept in a plea agreement. He drugged and raped a 13-year-old girl, period. End of discussion. Even if she was above the age of consent and had been a 38-year-old woman instead of a 13-year-old girl, drugging a person, forcing yourself on them sexually after they tell you no, and no, and NO, is rape, period.
Thirty-two years, alleged injustices by the justice system, and even the stated desire of the victim to just move on with her life (not an uncommon response for a victim to have, particularly in such a high-profile case) are irrelevant to the facts of what Polanski has freely admitted he did. It's high time justice was served in this case.
Does the predator in Hard Candy deserves the justice Hayley metes out on him? Well ... you'll just have to judge the justice of that for yourselves. Patrick Wilson's performance as Jeff, by the bye, is also outstanding; he plays a great predator, all surface-innocence masking malicious intent, and there are times when you almost feel sorry for him ... almost.
If you haven't seen Hard Candy, see it; if you have, it's a great film to revisit, if nothing else to remind yourself of what a talented actress Page is. It was one of the best and most underrated films of 2005 (while you're at it, check out Page's raw performances in The Tracey Fragments and An American Crime, and then actually defend an argument that she's a one-note actress).
But as you watch Hard Candy, spare a moment to think about Polanski and his young victim as well. Think about her ... and about all the victims whose voices were never heard at all.