- Rated R
- Buy the BD
All photos © Lionsgate
Reviewed by Jason Zingale
ard Candy” is unlike any movie you’ll ever see, and yet its roots are so deeply grounded in such popular sexual thrillers as “Fatal Attraction” and “Basic Instinct,” as well as recent shocksploitation films like “Oldboy” and “Audition.” It should come as no surprise, then, that the film’s own notoriety continues to grow (mostly by word of mouth) as it slowly makes its rounds in theaters across the country. This is one particularly edgy and disturbing little film, and it will no doubt have people talking by the end of the year – if not for its taboo subject matter, then for the brilliant performance by its Lolitaesque star, Ellen Page.
The movie begins innocently enough, with some playful online banter between 14-year-old Hayley Stark (Page) and thirtysomething fashion photographer Jeff Kohlver (Patrick Wilson), when the two finally agree to meet up at the local coffee shop later that day. In Jeff’s defense, Hayley appears far more mature than she really is, but the idea of this guy hanging out with a 14-year-old girl is enough to make you question his real motives, which are quickly conveyed when he invites Hayley back to his trendy bachelor pad in the Hollywood Hills. Surprisingly, she agrees to go, and after trading in their café lattes for something a little stronger, Hayley begins to “pose” for Jeff. Then, suddenly, he passes out, only to awaken moments later to find himself bound to a chair with Hayley accusing him of being a pedophile and murderer.
For a movie that relies entirely on its shock value, the less you know the better, but it’s important to note that the aforementioned summary only details the first 30 minutes of the film. From there, the story takes a massive leap that most probably aren’t expecting, including a scene so unsettling that it’ll have the entire male audience squirming in their seats. You can thank first-time director David Slade (who cut his teeth making music videos for bands like Stone Temple Pilots) for moments like these, though he’s hardly in control of the ship. Page and Wilson are remarkable opposite one another, and with the exception of a brief appearance by Sandra Oh, the two actors carry the entire film without even breaking a sweat. Well, maybe a little bit of sweat on the part of Wilson, although you can hardly blame him considering the situation his character’s been dropped into. Page is flawless, however, and I’ll be damned if this breakthrough performance doesn’t earn the pint-sized newcomer an Oscar nod come next March.
The film does tend to drag in the final act, but by the time it arrives, the audience is so invested in the cutthroat story that you could hardly imagine anyone stopping to make a fuss about it. In fact, you’ll be more concerned with the question of who’s the lesser evil: the seemingly innocent photographer or the sweet girl with good intentions? But while this piece of “Hard Candy” may be hard to swallow, it’s simply too sweet to pass up.
Single-Disc Blu-Ray Review:
"Hard Candy" arrives on Blu-ray with the same bonus features from its original DVD release. including two excellent audio commentaries (one with director David Slade and writer Brian Nelson, and the other with stars Patrick Wilson and Ellen Page), six deleted/extended scenes, and a short featurette that discusses the effect that the film had on audiences (“Controversial Confection”). Perhaps most notable, however, is the 52-minute making-of featurette that covers everything from conception, casting and post-production. Heck, you’ll even learn what a digital colorist actually does for a living.