Sunday, 18 November 2012

Hard Candy (2005)

Intense and unsettling as fuck. Like Requiem for a Dream, but without the valuable anti-drugs lesson.

To surmise the plot, I've got to give a spoiler for a reveal that comes about twenty minutes in, so if you're not up for that stop reading after the next sentence. If you don't want it spoiled just know that HC is not for the faint of heart: it's a psychological drama/thriller about a young teenage girl who's been groomed by an older man she met online and how reacts to him and his advances.

Still here? Cool. Basically, Hayley (Ellen Page) is a young girl who's been asked by Jeff (Patrick Wilson), a guy she met online, to meet up. Going along for coffee and eventually ending up back at his house, Hayley is quite aware of the danger she is in and turns the game around on her would-be predator in an act of youth and hate fuelled vigilantism.

With an uneasy opening, the tone and pace of the film starts off slow as Jeff's sleazy plays seem obvious to everyone but Hayley, but once the curtain is pulled back and the true balance of power is revealed the film's an intense thrill ride through vengeance and power. There are clear attempts to make both main characters dislikeable: Jeff obviously through his sick perversion, but also Hayley through her insane vigilantism and sadistic methods. But even with the best attempts at trying to hit a grey moral area, as the revelations come pretty quickly it's hard not to be completely on the girls side though the whole thing. Her methods are insane and sadistic, and she should really have gone to the police instead, but his crimes are unforgivable. Even in one particularly grizzly scene (well, it's implied. there's no gore or body horror) where you would be most estranged from her, the instant I remembered who exactly she was dealing with, the sympathy instantly evaporated.

As I said,HC is a lot like Requiem for a Dream: it's harrowing, intense and a very well made film where "enjoyed" might not be exactly the right word but rather "appreciated". It's not something I'll go running back to watch again and again (unlike Ferris Bueller, which I've now seen twice).

Definitely not a film for everyone, but it's certainly worth the time for those who don't mind seeing a murkier side of the world, especially so for people who like the idea of certain types of people receiving harsh vigilante justice. Ellen Page should be highlighted as exceptional for her performance too. At only 17 years old at the time (although playing a 14 year old) she manages to capture the intense hatred and disgust that Hayley harbours for Jeff, as well as her dark sense of humour in light of the circumstances she puts herself in.

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