Candy Coloured Page Turner
Hi everybody. I’d like to welcome back my scholarly, writerly friend and guest blogger Sandy, who has reviewed a film that I’m guessing will someday be considered a bit of a classic for future generations. I think this review is great... hope you do too.
Hard Candy USA 2005
Directed by David Slade
Lion’s Gate Region 2
I had a look at this film at Nuts4r2’s recommendation as he’d been fed up with my negative responses to quite a few films recently. That was until Juno, which I loved. He suggested I watched something else with Ellen Page in, so Hard Candy it was.
I’m not so good with horror or gory, so I was a little apprehensive when the cover advised me that I would be ‘absolutely terrified’. However, I was so pleased to have risked it.
What I really enjoyed in Hard Candy was that there were three stars in what was ostensibly a two-hander - the two main actors and the camerawork. I knew right away that I was in for some discomfort as the jangly camera moved in for uncomfortable close-ups right from the off and set the psychological tone to the impending claustrophobic nature of this film. And I wasn’t let down as it definitely challenged some ingrained assumptions.
Of course I knew the older man who seemed plausible and attractive through 14 year old’s eyes was grooming her, and of course I knew the 14 year old didn’t understand the power of her provocative exploration of the relationship. But what I didn’t know, because generally we just don’t like to explore these things so much, or at all, is the potential power we all hold despite age, gender or any other factor that can serve to disempower. Hard Candy put that right.
So I felt apprehensive even before our assumptions were turned on their heads, and suffocated and invaded after. Those relentless close ups even had my hands waving around my head at one point as, like Jeff, I tried to push this damn thing away from me. In my case, the in-your-face camera shots, and in Jeff’s case his restraining ropes. We both needed space and perspective but neither of us got it. Unlike the character Jeff, I could breath again when the end titles rolled and make myself a well earned cuppa to wash this film out of my throat, where it had lodged itself. Jeff’s throat didn’t fare so well!
These performances were so emotionally fraught that at one point I wondered whether the actor’s actually might need therapy after. They took the characters’ emotions, or dissociation from emotions, to the edge. Page is so skilled at micro expressions - just the tiniest change moves us into a new territory, and Patrick Wilson convincingly conveys the disintegration of a human being outplayed by another who was oh so much better at chilling to the core.
I enjoyed how this film covered so many moral questions without pointing all of them out. At one time I even felt sorry for Jeff’s pitiful plight at the hands of the 14 year old psychopath - or was she? - despite his so-called paedophilic tendencies. We were invited to ponder the nature/nurture question posed by Hayley in relation to her own behaviour but also Jeff’s, when he offered a childhood incident as a possible explanation for his sexual preferences. My favourite implicit moral question was how the neighbour’s insistence that she was always looking for baby sitters sounded so innocent... yet just think of all those parents just wanting their nights out, leaving their kids with an unknown sitter, where anything could happen... but that’s another film altogether!
Although the dialogue was clear, purposeful and Hayley was unforgiving, I also felt this film was making suggestions that left the powerful human imagination and the primitive fears of the collective unconscious to do the rest. Power, retribution. Who were we rooting for? Or do we need to root for anyone? Is that just another human cover up for not being able to manage overwhelming, primitive feelings.
So... uneasy, invasive, triumphantly vengeful, this film ultimately left me with that beautiful question of Edmund Burke’s in my mind about being a bystander as it didn’t matter one jot to Hayley whether Jeff had murdered or just watched a murder: "All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing." (Edmund Burke)