Friday, February 15, 2008

Hard Candy, a film by David Slade (2005)

When I saw this movie, Juno had not quite arrived yet, but someone mentioned that Ellen Paige was also in Hard Candy so when I saw it on the shelf in the video store, I grabbed it.

Wow! I do have one objection: the character she plays is an impossibly sophisticated 14 year old girl (Paige was, I think, 18 at the time). I found myself in the early parts of the movie asking "how old is this girl?", but still, wow!

The movie was made in 18 days, by a largely new team, for around $1 million. Apart from one scene, the entire action occurs in a single house, and for 90% of the time, only two people are in it - Jeff and Haley. As the movie went on, I was reminded of Richard Linklater's Tape, both in the way the action was shot in such a confined space and in the way in which one character confronted the other with a particular truth.

It is quite a mission for actors to carry a movie under such circumstances, but they did it, Ellen Paige in particular was amazing.
They "meet" in an internet chatroom: the movie starts with Haley agreeing to see Jeff at a local cafe. From the start, she's playing a dangerous game with him, talking the talk of a much older female. It is she, not he, who suggests they go back to his place. I was fearing the worst; sure, he was "nice" but we've all seen these movies before, and know why 32 year old men take 14 year old girls home. There, she plays with him over the making of a screwdriver, saying that she'd been taught never to accept a drink she'd not seen made. So she makes one for them both.

This is when the true purport of the movie starts to emerge: she has drugged him ("that advice about watching your drinks being made, that's good for everyone") and ties him up.
She spends the rest of the movie on the attack: about how she'd been in various chatrooms in different guises but he only ever talked to her when she was 14; that as an adult, his place was to stop her coming to his house, and to not give girls ("and I place emphasis on the word girl") alcohol. Then she's at him about his work - he's a photographer, and has photos of half-dressed young teenaged girls.

The morality here is left ambiguous: we've not seen the photos, so can't judge and, frankly, Haley is coming across as a psycho and Jeff as quite a decent guy, one I had trouble believing ill of.
But this is a careful construct by those making the movie: underneath Haley's rage is a missing girl named Donna (her picture had featured earlier, in the coffee shop). Haley is convinced that Jeff did her in, and is going to torture Jeff to get at the truth. It takes a long time - he even faces castration without confessing. My belief in his innocence really only started to shift when Haley finds his secret cache of truly disgusting photos and a photo of the missing girl. At this point, she has him pretty well set up: she's sent out various messages in his name, there is some incriminating evidence and the love of his life is about to turn up.

What to do - face the music or hang oneself, against Haley's promise to clean everything up? It is never quite clear what Haley's involvement is with this missing girl, but she has mentioned another guy, Aaron, who was involved: Jeff blames Aaron and claimed he only watched, but Haley seems to have some secret source of information to the effect that that is not how it was (my theory is that she knew Aaron, maybe he was her brother or maybe she'd put him through similar treatment).



Anonymous Anonymous said...

that was a great movie to watch because it is a very tricky but suductive. It catchs your attention and does not let go until its over so i can only say one thing AWESOME!!!!!

3:56 PM  

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