out of Five
Running time: 103
Intense, stylishly directed thriller with strong performances from its two leads but it doesn’t go far enough and the result is ultimately disappointing.
What’s it all about?
Ellen Page (Kitty Pryde in X-Men 3) stars as Hayley, a 14 year old girl who meets a man she met off the internet and agrees to go back to his apartment.
Her would-be seducer is Jeff (Patrick Wilson), a fashion photographer in his early 30s. However, Jeff gets more than he bargained for when he discovers that Hayley is intent on making him confess to a recent murder and that she’ll use any means necessary to extract that confession.
Director David Slade makes his feature debut with Hard Candy and he displays an impressive sense of style, saturating the screen with dark reds and greens and filming the majority of the scenes with tight close-ups on his two leads. This is particularly effective during the film’s key sequence, involving a rather nasty surgical procedure.
Hard Candy is essentially a two-hander and a film such as this stands or falls on the quality of the performances. Fortunately, the actors deliver splendidly. Page is a genuine find, able to switch convincingly from innocent teenager to impassioned vigilante. Wilson is good too, managing to stay just the right side of creepy so that you don’t automatically side with Hayley.
The main problem with the film is that the dramatic revelations are badly handled. It’s also hard to believe that they come when they do, as opposed to during the aforementioned surgical procedure.
Ultimately, the script doesn’t really go deep enough, with the result that the climax is strangely dissatisfying. Similarly, the film isn’t always successful in its attempt to switch our sympathies.
In short, this is a stylishly directed thriller that’s worth seeing for its intense performances, but there are too few surprises and the end result is disappointing.