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MovieXclusive Review - Hard Candy
by Lim Mun Pong, published on Thursday, July 20, 2006 14:58:57
A smart, charming teenage girl, Hayley probably shouldn't be going to a local coffee shop to meet Jeff, a 30-something fashion photographer she met on the Internet. But Hayley's ready to have fun, and soon she's mixing screwdrivers at Jeff's place and stripping for an impromptu photo shoot. It's Jeff's lucky night--until his vision blurs and he passes out .
Man meets girl on internet. Man is a lonely photographer; girl is a flirty student. He is charming while she is deeply intelligent. They decide to meet at a coffee house. The problem is, man is a 32 years old while girl is 14. The bigger problem is, man decides to invite girl to his house. The biggest problem is, girl agrees. What is it about arty-farty photographers that always get the girls? Fortunately for the non-photographically-inclined dudes out there, it turns out the girl is a bona fide man-eater. Got ice pick?
The gentlemen in the theatre sulk in collective despair as every growing boys greatest nightmare was acted out on-screen. At the same time, the ladies snicker and chortle at every snipe of girl Hayley (Ellen Page)s scissors and scalpel. It is like the cutesy ditsy babes that skittered into the theatre before the lights went off are at once reveling in some perverse pleasure at the emasculation of a very sweaty photographer (Patrick Wilson). I have to take my mind off the action.
From the many close-up shots of the man in various states of exertion/desolation/perspiration, Patrick Wilson bears more than a passing resemblance to Zinedine Zidane (the French dude that head-butted the Italian dude during the World Cup final), albeit with more hair. Ellen Page was Hayley Stark in this movie before she became Kitty Pryde in X-men 3. She was 17 when she shot the film in 2005, but her body does look like it belongs to a 14 year-old. Maybe excessive running through walls retard growth in some really important female assets. Maybe she was digitally de-enhanced like Brandon Rouths Superman. So before she became a member of the X-men she was making men ex-men. Note to self: remember to show Shadowcat more respect next time.
Okay back to the movie. The film works its way through 104 minutes largely with sinister build-up of tension as well as intelligent and sometimes funny conversation between the two protagonists. Director David Slade displays a penchant for episodic emotional trauma relieved by fade-to-blacks or strafing shots of richly-coloured walls. He also imbues suspense the same way. The tight close-up shots of the characters faces were unsettling and not a comfortable sight to behold given the subject matter of this particular movie.
With an acting ensemble of only two major speaking roles and one came-OH by a certain Sandra (Oh indulge me!), we have to expect some plot loose-ends. The audience is also required to suspend a healthy amount of disbelief with Jeffs inexplicable love for an ex-girlfriend a prime example (Hey if you love the lady so much why are you preying on little girls? Childhood trauma is not an excuse). However, I believe that the film is not so much a realistic story as it is an in-your-face shock parable, or, for the matter, a nasty warning for the guys from malcontented girlfriends.
However, it is to the films credit that both Patrick Wilson and Ellen Page are able to deliver evocative layered performances of their characters. As Hayley taunts and revels in Jeffs anguish, we see the transformation from a vulnerable wide-eyed innocent schoolgirl to a calculating angel of revenge exacting disproportionate justice (and a frightening display of acting talent from Ms Page) while at the same time, Patrick Wilsons character was systematically stripped of his dignity and practically imploded as a person before our eyes. I would like to believe that I am not the only person to feel some sympathy for Mr Vengeanced-upon before the end of the show (the girly giggling stopped). This begs the question: who is worse the vulgar and vicious schoolgirl or the perverse paedophilic photographer? This film offers no easy answer.
Movie Rating: 3,5 out of 4
(With some swearing by a teenage actress posing as an even younger teenager and woozy scenarios involving the symbols of male pride, this hard candy may be too tough to stomach for the squeamish.)