Hard Candy is a difficult film to watch, but this should not deter anyone interested in seeing Ellen Pages breakthrough performance.|
by Ranjan Pruthee, published on October 13, 2010
Even before Facebook and MySpace developed into social and cultural phenomenons--Microsoft´s MSN, mIRC, YahooChat, and Hotmail back in the late 90´s and the early 2000´s, through various tools and services, offered an outlet for social communication and networking. That was the Web 1.0 era. What we have now is the buildup of the chat room revolution with more complex and integrated Web sites that are harnessing Web users scattered around the world. The revolutionized Web world has been upgraded to Web 2.0, with blogs, free content, chat rooms, social sites, and personalization forming the foundation of the new-generation Web. But whether the platform of interaction is Web 1.0 or Web 2.0, the Web has made it possible for anyone to reach out to a wider community in the social domain, even if it means interacting with strangers.
What´s more, it is very easy to remain anonymous in the Web world--just create an ID and you are set to interact. Many chat rooms around the world act as hubs to hook up people looking to date others or just form friendships. Not only does this open the door to aberrant behavior, however, it also invites criminals in the form of sex offenders, pedophiles, thieves, and many more who can interact on-line without revealing their true identity and motives. With the high anonymity factor, a seamlessly friendly chatting session can later turn for the worse. "Hardy Candy" (2005) uses this as the starting point to tell us a story of a pedophile and a teenage girl.
"Hardy Candy" begins with a thirty-two year old, Jeff (Patrick Wilson), and a fourteen year old, Hayley (Ellen Page), meeting at a coffee shop after a brief chat-room session. It appears that both of them have been interacting on-line for quite some time now, but it is for the first time they meet in person. Soon, Jeff takes Hayley to his house for a photo shoot. Meanwhile, Hayley has other plans, and she mixes something in Jeff´s drink and he passes out. Moments later, Jeff is tied to a chair, and he begins to question Hayley´s intentions. As it turns out, it is the other way round, and Hayley sheds some light on why Jeff is held in a captive-like situation.
Before playing the character of a teenage girl in both "Juno" (2007) and "Whip it" (2009) and that of a young architect in "Inception" (2010), Ellen Page´s performance in "Hard Candy" is an eye-opener, in that it is extraordinarily different from her later performances. Hayley´s character is gutsy, fearless, and smart. Before meeting Jeff, she has thoroughly planned every move and executes them at the right moments, leaving Jeff immensely surprised till the very end. Within a few opening moments, she rapidly transforms to a brutally assaultive, vengeance-seeking girl. Of course, it´s a metaphor for a girl who initially appeared innocent and tender, is now a tough nut to crack, and thereby rightly coined as a "Hard Candy" character. The story is a cat-and-mouse game in which Hayley has trapped Jeff in his own house, for which there is no escape. Jeff is totally taken aback by Hayley´s transformation, which only makes him feel like a victim. Is he really a victim of a mistaken identity? Probably not.
Through conversations between Jeff and Hayley, we learn of Jeff´s deviant behavior with young girls in the past. But he tries to brush it aside by explaining his professional efforts done for a good environmental cause, and how his photo sessions have helped the models in their careers. More so, he does not admit anything wrong with him approaching young girls. Maybe this is the first sign of pedophilia--their being dismissive and unaccountable for their actions. At the halfway mark, the movie takes a wicked turn, and we begin to feel for Jeff when Hayley performs a horrific procedure on him. You feel for him because he keeps on saying: "You got the wrong guy," giving us the impression that he might be innocent, after all. But behind his innocent façade, it might be an absolute denial and lie from a pedophile.
The filmmakers have paid close attention to the aesthetics in Jeff´s house. His house has a contemporary look: dark red and blue painted walls and an expensive glass table in the center--with objects arranged in a minimalist way, giving us the scope of his wealth. Nonetheless, Jeff´s money makes us wonder if he is innocent--after all, money can buy anything, but most rich people are not perverts. In addition, the film mainly occurs inside the two rooms of Jeff´s house--a perfect setting for a chamber drama. Director David Slade says in a bonus item that the movie is mostly shot with close-ups, and you rarely see long shots. As a result, the characters´ actions and emotional reactions are enclosed within the house. It´s director´s artistic imprint on the sets that makes for an absorbing and believable film experience.