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A Nutshell Review - Hard Candy
by Stefan S, published on Sunday, July 30, 2006
Hard candy is an internet slang for an under-aged girl. And this actually reminded me of a social experiment that a friend and I conducted in the internet chat rooms some 5 years back. There were always plenty of talk and reports about how dangerous the Internet is, with the chatrooms being a gold mine for pedophiles and perverts chatting up little boys and girls, and then doing dastardly deeds with them when they're enticed to meet up in real life.
So we decided to check it out ourselves. My friend and I posed as "sweetgal18" and entered a local popular chatroom. Even before you can say Hello, pop ups after pop ups of private messages come flooding the screen, some started innocently, others were more direct, asking for sexual favours. In this experiment however, we stopped short of arranging to meet these people, and turn up just to take their photos from afar and put it online. However, I recall of late some local blogsite actually started a crusade against these perverts, and went the extra mile which we couldn't. Bravo!
Now back to the movie. With a cast of essential 2 leads + 3 extras with extremely limited screen time, the story and dialogue pieces had to be extremely engaging to hold the audience's attention. And that was successfully done. It begins with a sexually charged tease over a chatroom conversation between Jeff Kohlver (Patrick Wilson), a 32 year old photographer, and Hayley Stark (Ellen Page), a 14 year old student whose level of maturity surpasses her age.
They decide to meet up, and we play witness to a seemingly innocent face to face introduction, before things start to become a little loaded with double entrees, and dialogues laced with innuendoes. Before long, Hayley decides to follow Jeff home, and there's where the "fun" begins, where little red riding hood goes up against a probably "coloured wolf".
It's in the same vein as Saw, except that the explicit violence is exchanged for psychological warfare, and throughout the entire movie, you're constantly wondering and changing positions of thought, as to who's possibly right, or wrong, doing the right thing (vigilantism?) - who's actions can be justified, or should you pity the victim caught in a tables about turned situation? You'll be second guessing a lot, as the psychological play gets stepped up and you wonder just who should you thrown your support to - could Hayley just be a crazed kid, and could Jeff possibly be maligned and actually is a harmless soul? The characters straddle both ends of the good-evil spectrum, until certain hints start to prod you in the right direction.
But as psychological play is concerned, this means plenty of dialogue, and thankfully the leads were credible in their delivery. However, it also means that not much happens, until the frantically paced set action pieces that never relents up till the end. There is however one major scene which will definitely make you squirm. I know I did, and my stomach actually churned, even without having the scene explicitly played out on screen as punishment is dished.
All's revealed at the finale, and despite so much drama-mama, it'll actually make you smile with (sick) satisfaction about the grandeur plot, which to some, is a loophole akin to a typical Bond villain's monologue. But one thing's for sure, you cannot fault Ellen Page's Hayley - while she's capable of doing what she did, there's still a scene in the movie I felt inserted purposefully, which highlights and reminds of her girly inexperience with being the grand schemer of things.
The movie serves as a timely reminder for anyone with children or young siblings, to warn them of the clear and present dangers of the dark side of the internet, that they should reveal any personal information about their personal lives, or in the first place, not to chat with strangers. On the net, everyone can be anyone. Then again, strangers should not talk to seemingly innocent children, lest they really turn out to be psychopaths. I wish these perverts ill fortune that something of his nature will befall them, and that they get their just desserts.