hard candy

Have you ever been in a situation so shocking, so devastating, that it changes reality around you? Suddenly there's a buzzing in your ears... the colors seem oversaturated... everything looks like it's moving under a strobe light. I have experienced this only twice in my life: once, when my beloved friend Jacob died unexpectedly, and the second time, when Greg asked for the divorce. At that point, the world around you doesn't seem quite real; your senses, or your brain, or whatever, doesn't want to accept how reality has suddenly and irrevocably changed for you.

Hard Candy captures that circumstance in a spectacular fashion, in ways other movies have only flirted with. It's the story of a fourteen-year-old girl (played precociously by a younger Ellen Page) who begins to seduce a thirty-two-year-old pedophile, and then suddenly turns the tables on him. After she gets the upper hand, the ways in which she toys with him are simply horrifying, and we experience with him that surreal suspension of reality.

The movie begins blandly enough, with the two flirting in a chatroom, meeting at a diner, going to his place... but then he starts to feel kind of fuzzy. He passes out; when he wakes up, he's bound tightly to a chair, and the whole tone of the movie changes. We actually feel sorry for him... he doesn't seem so bad! We wonder why she tortures him as she does--is she a bit insane? Well, of course she is. But she's not wrong.

As the movie devolves, as the terror within the man starts to grow, as we see the inevitable conclusion looming, we start to see the world as he does. Scenes are interspersed with blinding, full-screen flashes of red. Images get blurry... the girl moves as if under a strobe. We swim in denial with the man (she can't be doing this!). We witness his heartbreak; we watch as he is completely broken.

For any of us who have spent a bit of time on this planet, the experience is completely familiar. Of course we're not all pedophiles, confronted with evidence of our sins... but most of us have experienced that distortion of our senses that happens when we must deal with something utterly terrible. I, for one, hope I've lived through that for the last time.
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7 Response to "hard candy"

  1. Mrs. Thuro says:
    March 7, 2008 at 9:55 AM

    Good movie, however, I think I'm one of the few people on the planet who never felt sorry for him. I'm not saying that he should've been downright tortured, but I enjoyed watching his terror, because there's nothing right about a 32 year old taking a 14 year old home. Maybe I'm crazy.

  2. Nayana Anthony says:
    March 7, 2008 at 9:58 AM

    You're not crazy... as I said, she wasn't wrong. What I found interesting was that he seemed so innocuous in the beginning... but of course appearances are deceiving. Of course he was a creep. And he got what was coming to him. The jarring thing was that he didn't fit the stereotype.

  3. Linda says:
    March 7, 2008 at 5:33 PM

    This is one of the most mesmerizing films I've seen. Aside from the plot, the performances are just amazing. Patrick Wilson always does a great job with intense roles, and Page plays her character with a calm menace that is riveting. Cool film.

  4. Joe Valdez Says:
    March 8, 2008 at 5:03 AM

    The only words I saw in print last year more than "Ellen Page" were "Diablo Cody". And "milkshake". Ugh. Maybe the sounds of spring will be able to drone out the media over-saturation of E.P. and I'll be able to watch Hard Candy with an open mind.

    I'm thrilled that you and Mrs. Thuro enjoyed it. The screenshot in anamorphic widescreen looks bad ass, so I'll definitely give it a chance. At some point.

  5. soundtrackgeek says:
    March 11, 2008 at 3:11 PM

    I've been meaning to see this for a long time. It seems like a great movie to watch.

  6. Karl Hungus says:
    March 13, 2008 at 1:01 AM

    I really enjoyed the film. Personally, I probably did feel sorry for Jeff, which is hard to do considering the subject matter, but Patrick Wilson was very good. I guess I felt that two wrongs didn't make a right, and what is essentially vigilante justice is rather nasty.

    One film I would seriously recommend is The Woodsman with Kevin Bacon. It's a far more humanist story, and just quite a remarkable film.

  7. Evan Derrick says:
    March 17, 2008 at 12:11 AM

    Nayana, stumbled over here. This was one of my top films of 2006, if not the top one. I wish I could write a script as precisely paced and expertly written as this one.

    Also glad to find another Christian critic in the blogosphere. Look forward to checking out the site in the future!

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