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Hard Candy
DVD disk
09.27.2006 By: Jason Adams
Hard Candy order
Director:
David Slade

Actors:
Ellen Page
Patrick Wilson
Sandra Oh

Rating:
Movie:
Extras:
Overall:

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WHAT'S IT ABOUT?
Jeff is a middle age photographer who meets up with Hayley, a fourteen year old girl he’s been chatting with on the internet. The pair engage in some harmless conversation at a coffeehouse before going back to Jeff’s place for some drinks. Next thing he knows, Jeff wakes up tied to a chair and that’s when the real fun begins…

In case my sarcasm went unnoticed, “fun” = “horrendous physical and mental torture.” Enjoy!
IS IT A GOOD MOVIE?
HARD CANDY has to be the most unsettling movie I’ve seen in quite some time. From frame one, I just felt uncomfortable and dirty, like I was secretly watching something I shouldn’t be. This near-repulsive effect might justifiably turn some weak-stomached viewers off, but coupled with the subject matter it’s an almost perfect recipe for an effective thriller. Despite being a bit extreme in terms of story (you just have to accept that a young girl can pull off owning a man twice her size), HARD CANDY is intense and realistic—and unflinchingly horrific because of that realism. Like Mark Romanek and ONE HOUR PHOTO, David Slade is a rare positive case of how music video directors can translate a keen visual eye into something greater on a visceral and emotional scale. The transitions between bright colors and washed out metallic hues are hypnotizing, and with the precise camerawork it’s hard to look away (and there were plenty of times I wanted to).

As good as the movie looks, the two performances are the centerpiece of the production and they’re amazing to say the least. HARD CANDY could be a stage play set in a bare room and it would still be every bit as effective thanks to its stars. Ellen Page (Kitty Pryde in X-MEN 3) is absolutely phenomenal as Hayley, with a believable range extending from innocent teen to psychotic genius to mystery villain/hero. It’s a career-making performance and if she doesn’t get serious Oscar attention, it’ll prove the Academy as a mainstream joke. Patrick Wilson holds his own as well with a very tough role. Jeff might be a pedophile—at best, he’s a creepy guy hanging around preteen girls—but you need to feel some empathy for him or else its going to be a two-hour joyride seeing a pederast deservedly get the crap knocked out of him. Wilson makes the character feel very real, keeping his motivation and intentions at bay, and while you (hopefully) don’t identify with him, there are definite points where you feel bad for him. (Of course, anybody who has ever had male genitalia will pity him to the max.)

I won’t give away exactly what goes down behind the closed doors of Jeff’s house, but let’s just say that there was a point in HARD CANDY when I didn’t think it could get any more disturbing. I was proved very wrong very quickly.
THE EXTRAS
The two commentaries and extensive Making Of feature are actually quite solid, so be sure to take a look:

Commentary by director David Slade and screenwriter Brian Nelson: If you’re at all interested in cinematography or filmmaking, be sure to listen to this. Both men are lively speakers and they point out something cool from a technical or storytelling standpoint in just about every shot.

Commentary by actors Ellen Page and Patrick Wilson: It’s really weird hearing the two laugh and get along so well for the entire commentary, since they spend the actual movie at each others throats (and Wilson’s balls). It’s an entertaining track thanks to their chemistry and worth a listen just so you can sleep at night knowing that Jeff and Hayley are actually nice people.

Creating HARD CANDY (51:48): A documentary comprised of some intimate interviews with the filmmakers covering everything from the initial idea through production and the movie’s release. The more I see of David Slade the more I get excited about his future projects.

Controversial Confections (9:21): The movie definitely covers some taboo subject matter and the cast and crew discuss how they dealt with responsibly portraying such adult themes.

Deleted Scenes (10:57): According to Nelson in the commentary, pretty much everything from the script made it in to the final film, so the few extra lines and shots here are mostly extraneous.

Script with Director’s Notebook: If you have a DVD-ROM you can take a look at the shooting script all marked up by Slade.

A Theatrical Trailer and some Previews.
FINAL DIAGNOSIS
You know how sometimes you’re watching the news and you see some creep who’s been arrested for molesting a child and you say to yourself, “They should just let a rabid rottweiller loose on his man parts and save the court system the trouble…” Well, the makers of HARD CANDY took that sentiment and ran with it. The result is a brutal and stunning thriller made extra effective by the two lead performances. Not the best date movie, but if you’re looking to have your ass rocked in to your seat by suspense, look no further.

Extra Tidbit: I blame CHUD’s Devin Faraci for pointing out that star Patrick Wilson bears an uncanny resemblance to ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT funnyman Will Arnett. I’ll never look at Gob Bluth the same way again.
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