Hard Candy Reviews
Today we live in a world where everyone has access to the Internet, even children at the age of five will have access to a laptop or iPad. Whilst some may shrug at this and not see the harms of having access to the Internet, others know that the Internet does hold some horrors. Trolls. Cyber bullying. But one of the worst has to be sexual predators, using social media to target vulnerable teenagers and children. Everyone has heard of the horror stories of meeting people from the Internet, and a tragic minority have lived through it.
Hard Candy is a film that shows you the horrors of sexual predators from the Internet at the very start with a conversation online from 'Thonggrrrl14' and 'Lensman319'. The two arrange to meet up and then we see fourteen year-old Hayley Stark (played brilliantly by Ellen Page) and thirty-two year-old Jeff Kohlver (played by Patrick Wilson, who as well gives a good performance). The scene that is played out is disturbing realistic of how a first meeting would go between the predator and the young girl. Wilson's character makes sexual references in their conversations, seemingly has a lot in common with the young girl which we know isn't true at all, tells her she is very mature for her age and finishes it with buying Page's character a shirt that she likes and then suggests she should 'model' for him with the shirt. Even though Hayley makes numerous references to her age throughout the conversation, Jeff still takes her back to his home. Thus begins the films story, where the audience begins to question themselves on who is the victim in this tale and who is the monster.
Let it be known that this review contains spoilers from the film, so to avoid that, skip straight to the 'Overall Review' segment of this review.
This is Ellen Page's movie, as in she is the star who never loses her spotlight in this movie. From start to finish, you are held captive by Ellen Page's performance, never once thinking about Wilson or his character. The audience is always thinking of questions such as, 'Who is Harley?', 'What's her backstory?', 'Why is she doing this?' or 'What is Harley going to do next?'. Only half of those questions are answered, just to let you know. It is unfortunate for Wilson as his character never gets to shine through. Despite the good acting, he just couldn't steal a scene away from Page. To be honest, I don't believe they are few or any other actors that could have stolen this movie from Page if they were cast in Wilson's role. She is truly the heart of this film and this is definitely one of the best performances by the actress. Also, she was nineteen when this was shot. That was the sound of your mind exploding by the way.
Not only is the performance strong, but the writing for Page's character is spot-on with its statements, which some are both haunting yet memorable. My top three would be Page's first speech on how an adult should respond to a child who is flirtatious, the part where Page repeatedly whispers the word 'stop' to a tied up Patrick Wilson as though she was a victim of sexual assault and at the end, when Wilson asks her who she is, she responds by saying she is ever little girl that he (Wilson's character and to all predators) has watched, touched, hurt, screwed or killed.
Now why I can't give enough praise to how spectacularly written Page's character was, I can not say that the same was done for Wilson's character. Jeff constantly denies he is a paedophile or had any involvement with the disappearance of another young girl. If this was done to convince the audience that he is innocent and Hayley is just a psycho, then it did not succeed. Jeff knew that Hayley was fourteen yet took her home and gave her alcohol despite her age. I was waiting for the punishment by the time the pair entered his home. If you are aware that the person you meet is underage, you do not continue the date. I knew Jeff wasn't innocent from the start. At most, the audience may believe this to be a one off, that he made a mistake and he will learn from this. But then Hayley finds a photo of the missing girl in his safe. All mystery on whether he was involved or not in the missing girl's disappearance had disappeared just like her. I felt Wilson performed his hardest and was shown in the castration scene (I was nearly sweating watching this scene, but not as much as Wilson).
Another bad feature of this film is the shaky cam that occurred whenever there was an action scene. Shaky cam only works in 'Found-Footage' films and even then I will still complain that all it does is make the audience and myself nauseous and irritated.
THE OVERALL REVIEW
Minus shaky cam and unfair character writing, this film is a must see for any thriller and/or indie lover. Ellen Page fans will grin and cheer as she torments the suspect, whether or not if he is guilty. But most importantly, it's message towards sexual predators and its warning to those who plan to meet anyone online is echoed into their minds and will surely not be forgotten.
There are three huge issues keeping it from being satisfying. First, Jeff's (Patrick Wilson's) guilt is kept ambiguous until the very end, so his relentless torture may be completely unjust. Innocent until proven guilty, right? And the movie takes its time proving it, while throwing him under the bus in increasingly dramatic ways.
Secondly, the film feels stretched. After a stellar opening, the dialogue wears incredibly thin. Hayley (Ellen Paige) in particular will make a point, then make that same point again, and then again all in a matter of minutes. The dialogue is also overly serious and spells out every bit of subtext wherever it can. You can practically hear the writer's own self-importance every time someone speaks. It all feels really amateur.
Finally (and this is another script-related issue), the climax and conclusion are both illogical and silly. On paper, they seem like cool ideas, but in practice they feel shoehorned as if the writer started there and crafted a story around them. Again, it feels like an ego thing. "Isn't it cool that I did this," it seems to scream. The answer is no, not really. 4.2/10