In this week’s FTMU we go all the way back to 2005. Hard Candy stars a young Ellen Page, but this isn’t the Ellen Page we all fell for in Juno. She’s no snarky and funky little teen prego. She plays Hayley Stark, a mature 14-year old girl who finally meets a 32-year old photographer that she has chatted with online for the past few months. Played by Patrick Wilson, he is nice to Hayley, and is quickly talked in to going back to his house by his pubescent new friend.
Once there, Hayley eventually talks him in to having a Screwdriver with her. Up to this point in the film, it just seems like a very uncomfortable friendship is forming. Jeff, Patrick’s character, doesn’t seem to be returning the thinly veiled flirtations from Hayley, but he’s not stopping them either. He’s not keeping a 14-year old girl from drinking with him, and the conversation is just uncomfortable for the viewer to enjoy. I found myself very tense and not sure of what would come next.
Well, I didn’t see it coming. Hayley has drugged Jeff, and he wakes up, bound, to a very different Hayley. She is convinced that he is a pedophile. She is prepared to do anything to get him to confess, by threatening to call his ex, and goes through the elaborate explanation that she is going to castrate him; she brought the tools and the medical book with her to do it right so that she could do it safely.
The film spirals and whirls as Hayley and Jeff circle one another verbally. Jeff lashing out at her, Hayley dedicated to finding out the truth.
The entirety of the film, except for the opening scene, takes place in Jeff’s modern, minimalist home. The stark decor, lack of warm colors and lack of any clutter, lends to the feeling that the story portrays. Set design is often overlooked as many shoots in big films are location-based and offer little chance for complete and total design. I love films like this, that take place in just a warehouse or home, where every little set piece is carefully designed, chosen, and placed. I appreciate everything in this movie from the couch to the Hayley’s pseudo-tomboy haircut and her hoody.
This is a psychological thriller. The film is terrifying. The obvious and deliberate change in pace after Jeff is drugged, is matched by the sudden change in Hayley, and as a reaction to being bound and potentially castrated for suspicion of pedophilia, and Jeff, changes the tone for awkward to watch to horrifying to witness.
Ellen Page shines, as she should being a 14-year old bent on cutting off a man’s testicles. She really is disturbing in this film. Hayley is a fragile girl, awkward and weak, but also emotionally and mentally fragile. You get the sense of a cold grip on the situation, a well laid plan, but in the moment there is nerves while she relishes the moments. She whispers and she screams. She wants him to confess, needs it, but is enjoying seeing him squirm. Her mature language and at times her very nonchalant mannerisms are chilling for the situation. This is a man you’re torturing, not some science project for the fair. Who is the crazy one here, Hayley or Jeff?
I highly suggest this film, because it is Ellen Page like we’ve never seen her after Juno. She is cold, calculating, and a damned dangerous child. Does she get her man? Does she force him to admit he is a pedophile? Is he a pedophile, or just willing to say anything to save his life? Well, that’s some hard candy to swallow. (Okay, that was bad) Watching this movie I didn’t do much talking, or anything for that matter. I reacted, shocked at moments, and relished every scene. See the movie. You will love it. Five stars, if I must attach an arbitrary rating to it.