The series "Film Reviews: an Academical, Funny Approach" presents:
"Playtime is over, Jeff. Now it's time to wake up."
Hard Candy is a weird indie film with a huge psychological power. And I love it. If you haven't seen it, don't read any further: wait to see the film and later read this review if you want. Hard Candy is worth to be seen without knowing anything about it, with the mind like a white paper as Locke (the philosopher, not the bald one from Lost) used to say.
It's true that Hard Candy isn't enjoyable by all palates. The sensitive-minded audience will find the movie too harsh and they won't like it. But, hey, the real life can be harsh and disgusting in many tricky ways and, if you don't mind to face it, that's your film.
Crew and cast
Hard Candy is the David Slade's first feature film as a director and a great way to begin a film career. Later, he almost ruined his credibility with Eclipse, but there is news of him working in the reboot of Daredevil and in the series Awake. We'll have to wait and see whether this is encouraging or terrifying even if it seems improbable that Slade could have the "talent" to create a worse Daredevil than Ben Affleck's.
The screenwriter, Brian Nelson, is also a playwright, which makes a lot of sense: Hard Candy could have perfectly been a play, since the script is grounded in the dialog of two characters in only one location.
The movie is nothing without its two main actors. The young Ellen Page (Juno, Inception) makes an astonishing interpretation as Hayley. This was the first well-know role of this Canadian actress, but it won't be the last for sure. Patrick Wilson (The Phantom of The Opera) is the male lead and makes a big interpretation too, but is it in the same level of Ellen Page's? It's difficult to say.
Playing with the mind
Hard Candy has elements that can be considered slightly experimental: the movie picture scarcely has music (only nine minutes) and plays with other elements like the colour of the ambient light, the camera movements, studied close-ups, zooms in and zooms out... In addition, as a psychological thriller, the information and thoughts that the public have are equally – if not more – important.
The creators of the movie want the audience to think and ask themselves about what they are watching and what it involves. At the beginning of the story, it's evident that Jeff seems fishy. The attitude, the chocolate thing... But, even so, some people will feel bad when Hayley starts to torture him. What does that mean, to be in the pedophile side? You can argue that there's no clear evidence of his sexual desires in the first scenes, but later there is. And very clear. On the other hand, what if you sympathize with the girl? What does that mean, being sympathetic with a torturer? Why is she doing that? And, at the end of the film, when you realize that both characters have been fooling each other (and you too) since the beginning, that you don't really know who Jeff was and what he had done, and that you have no clue of who and what Hayley (if that's her name) is, you have to wonder about what exactly you have watched. You can argue a plenty of theories and all will fit.
Thinking about these subjects is found unpleasant by some people and they prefer to avoid that. However, I consider that thinking is important (Nobel Prize's discovery), no matter the subject. If we have to face the wide range of greys of a world without blacks and whites, go on then. And if we use the seventh art to do it, it will be even better and fun.