Thursday, January 03, 2008

Hard Candy (2005)

Hard Candy starts off as a interesting film about a teenager turning the tables on a pedophile, and devolves into the standard revenge film. The film in essence is a two character play. Patrick Wilson plays the supposed pedophile, and Ellen Page plays Hayley Stark the girl. The film is directed by David Slade the man who brought you last years 30 Days of Night. This was Mr. Slades first film, and it's somewhat impressive. The film is shot a lot in very tight closeups, and it's style is intriguing for awhile, but at 104 minutes the film does drag after awhile. Both performances are quite good, and I'm always interested in seeing two good actors chewing up the scenery. But somehow the length bothered me. There is a torture scene in the film that will make some men cringe, but I didn't and the reason was that I had no sympathy for the character. Wilson's character at first is a bit dubious. Is he or isn't he, but his performance is such that you know that there is something there under that "nice guy" veneer. I completely admire Wilson's chops as he goes toe to toe with his young tormentor, but it drags. Too much, and just a bit hooky. I've heard that some people may find the violence a bit too harsh, but it is never graphic, and the filmmaker handles this well. In fact Slade does it too well.

The ingenuity and calculating manner that Ms Page brings to her performance is interesting, but I don't buy it. Sure her character rattles away about how she did that and how she did this, but am I to believe that a 14 year old can think so thoroughly, and plan so efficiently. It's too by the numbers. I did love the revelation that happens near the end of the film where what is perceived is really not. That was a cool twist, and if you see it you'll know what I'm talking about. What I didn't like is how LONG the scene that played out before it took. Talk about endless, and again NO I didn't care about our victim. I did care for our heroine, but again some of her psyche I wasn't buying. It was all too neat.

I did watch the film to the end, but I swear I wanted to hit the fast forward button a couple of times. The pacing does seem to draw attention to itself, and it made me think about what I was really looking at. The film is dialogue heavy and hey I really don't have a problem with that, but it does sound sometimes forced.

Hard Candy is not a feel good film, and it does make you think after the film is over. In a world where pedophiles can enter your home via the computer it is a cautionary tale at best. As I said I enjoyed the style in which the film was shot. The shallow depth of field works, but at times I had to run back the scene to see if it was me or the film. Sometimes the character is out of focus, while an element in the frame is in focus. Now I know that filmmakers usually use it to draw attention to something he or she wants the audience to see, but in most of the scenes that wasn't the case. The depth of field was too shallow and the actress was out of focus while her shirt was in. That took me out of the story, and hindered me from believing the scene.

So did I like the film? I enjoyed the performances, but I felt it was over produced. The director Mr Slade I'm told is well known for his music videos, and though he uses the camera and the editing to his advantage I still had problems with the story. Some say too violent I say maybe not violent enough. Especially when you deal with a subject of pedophiles and murder. I neither cared about our victim, and also didn't believe that his abuser was that powerful.

Maybe if Slade had introduced some weakness in his characters, or a flaw I would have bought the scenario, but as it stands I can't. It is an impressive first film, and I'm even more interested in his second feature 30 Days of Night. The one thing this film does do is that it leaves you with a certain uneasiness about it's subject matter and it touches on the exploitation of young women in the media. Had it touched a deeper chord about that subject maybe the film would have been more interesting, and relevant.

No comments: