Psychological Thriller, Thriller
For three weeks, 14-year-old Hayley Stark has been chatting on-line with 'Lensmaster319', a 32-year old fashion photographer, named Jeff. The two agree to meet at a coffee shop called Nighthawks. They hit it off, despite the massive age difference. Hayley appears to flirt with Jeff, and Jeff generally restrains himself, even admitting that he must wait 4-years until he can be with her. But his reservations are apparently not enough to decline when Hayley all but invites herself over to his house. Once at the house, manipulation becomes the name of the game, and the pedophile seems to be on the non-traditional side of it.
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Traditionally, I don't review DVD releases. If I don't see the film in theatres, I don't post the DVD review here. That doesn't mean I don't see some films on DVD, it just means that I usually don't feel the need to share my review of the DVD releases on this site. Evidently, people like to read DVD reviews because I have been flooded with e-mails from readers who want to read what I have to think about films that I don't get a chance to see in theatres. The first film to fall under this category is "Hard Candy", a limited release project that never came close enough for me to see in theatres, and a film that I purchased on DVD the day that it was released. "Hard Candy" deals with very mature subject matter, and it approaches a topic that few filmmakers want to touch in this Bible-thumping, conservative day and age. "Hard Candy" deals with the subject of pedophilia. It deals with a grown man and his relationships with younger girls that he meets over the internet. Don't let any of that fool you - this is not "Happiness" - far from it. What "Hard Candy" does is present all of the uncomfortable material from an ulterior point of view, which is what makes the film work.
In his best performance to date, Patrick Wilson stars as Jeff Kohlver, a professional photographer and very handsome thirty-year-old man who just happens to meet a young 14-year-old girl, Hayley Stark (Ellen Page), over the internet. The two meet for coffee and Hayley convinces Jeff to take her back to his place to listen to a bootleg concert recording. Early on, we can sense that Jeff's motivations are a little skewed, even though he seems not to want to do anything too incriminating to himself - he is very careful. The two go back to his pad and talk, but then things start getting bumpy when Ellen drugs Jeff's screwdriver, sending him into unconsciousness and sending the film into a whole new territory. When Jeff rouses, he is tied to a chair, dazed, and wondering what in the hell has just happened. Hayley is armed with a bottle of bleach in case Jeff starts to scream, and numerous other 'tools' that she uses throughout the film. "Hard Candy" is a film about the victim turning the tables on the attacker. "Hard Candy" is a film about people owning up to what they have done. "Hard Candy" is a film about the most evil of deeds, and the people who commit them.
Much like "One Hour Photo" director Mark Romanek, director David Slade cut his teeth on music videos for bands like Stone Temple Pilots. Shot entirely on digital, "Hard Candy" uses some of those talents to create sequences that almost seem as if they might have been pulled out of some music video. Slade does a great job of establishing the pseudo-relationship that Wilson and Page developed over the internet, and then delving into the real motivations behind that relationship, as secrets are slowly revealed. The choice to shoot on digital was a great one, and the film just looks absolutely beautiful - gorgeously shot and executed. The tone of the film reminded me of one of my favorite films of all-time, the Roman Polanski directed "Death and the Maiden". Both films are similar in theme - female characters seeking to prove that their captives are lying; female characters taking dominant control over their male captives. Both films deal with people seeking revenge on individuals who may or may not be guilty. In "Hard Candy", we find out definitively if Wilson's character is as evil as Page's character wants him to be. Of course, I won't reveal the outcome, but I will say that all of the action that leads up to the reveal is pretty damned spectacular.
As mentioned previously, this is Patrick Wilson's best performance to date. He plays Jeff Kohlver as a very nice, very sincere, and very pleasant individual, who most people probably just pass off as perfectly normal. He is well liked, admired, and lives a pretty quiet and well-meaning life. Slowly, throughout the film, we start to see his sinister side leak out, especially as he starts getting more and more familiar with the game Page is playing. It also doesn't hurt that Patrick Wilson is one of the most gorgeous men on the planet. In a breakthrough role if there ever was one, Ellen Page is just terrific here as Hayley. She takes control of the situation, both with her character and her performance. She and Wilson play off one another so well, and they really seem to have an unspoken chemistry that plays on screen beautifully. Sandra Oh pops up for maybe a minute's worth of screen time, even though she is given top billing in the film. That made me chuckle.
So, if you didn't get a chance to check out "Hard Candy" in theatres, and I assume that most of you did not, then definitely check it out on DVD. There are not too many bonus features that make this particular DVD worth owning, so I recommend you just head to the local video store, or queue the film on your Netflix. "Hard Candy" is one of the best films of 2006, featuring on Oscar worthy performance from both Ellen Page and Patrick Wilson. It is one of those films that takes you by surprise and throws you for a loop because you were expecting something totally different. That's the kind of film that I like. That's the reason I go to the theatres and that's the reason why I pick up the scraps on DVD. But, I will warn - don't let the kiddies get ahold of this one, okay?
- added 10/04/2006, 11:31 PM
I too picked this movie up last week, but thanks
to being sicker than a dog since then, I haven't
had a chance to watch or review much of anything.
It's funny, I had planned on reviewing this
tonight, and then - wahlah - there's your review.
Damned fine timing there.
agree with the vast majority of the above review,
so I'm going to skip writing my own. Great movie
- added 10/10/2006, 04:00 PM
i heard about this about a month before it was
released in a theater that was about an hour drive
from where i live, and i sadly never got to see it
in theaters, but luckily it was released on video.
not to copy, but once again, same thing as above-
although at first i didn't like the ending much,
then after watching it a second time it just
seemed more fitting (something about it the first
time just seemed off to me). i'm more than happy
though to have caught it on video myself.
Kari Byron's Sex Cyborg
- added 04/19/2007, 08:14 AM
I was disappointed with this. After the 180 plot
twist, things just began to go downhill; the
acting, dialogue, and following story were all
cockamamie. In addition, it seemed a bit too full
of itself throughout, lacked a lot of depth, and
was unnecessarily flashy.
- added 04/27/2007, 07:03 PM
I was a bit bored with this one. I saw it
advertised at a convention and I thought it looked
like an awsome twisted thriller type movie. Its
seemed like it could have been an episode of a
crime drama (from the criminals side) stretched
out into 2 hours. WAY too slow with an
underwhelming ending but I suppose if you need to
- added 12/12/2007, 01:03 AM
I fucking ADORE this movie. My brother got it for
me used from the GameStop he works at for like 5
bucks, and BOY am I ever glad her did. Ellen Page
was fantastic, and it was just an all around great
movie. Really excited to see her in Juno.
- added 08/21/2008, 12:24 PM
Ellen Page, now she's an actress. I'd love to see
her and Angela Bettis in a flick together.
- added 04/27/2009, 12:14 AM
Not much I can say about this one that hasn't
already been said. This is one of my all time
personal favourite films. Brought it on a whim
after seeing Ellen Page in "Juno". Boy
am I glad I did. Amazing film, great actors,
- added 11/06/2010, 02:11 AM
I thought this movie was done well and didn't
bore me like others have said. 8/10