Sunday, May 27, 2012
Underrated Showcase Sunday: Hard Candy
I must be one of the most damaged children of my age. Someone asked me what I am going to watch tonight. I went through my options, coming to the original Straw Dogs, which I decided I wouldn't watch since I've already seen a rape movie this week. If I ever tell people about what happens in Requiem for a Dream, they just look at me strangely. One of my essays on The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo was basically all about rape (I'm doing the theme of 'revenge', so that's what it all came down to). But by far and beyond the most damaging film I've seen in my life is Hard Candy. Now, I vaguely remember this film during it's release back in 2005/06 or whatever. It was at the beginning of my movie obsession, and it was in the first issue of Empire (Australian movie magazine) I ever got, with a stellar 5 star review. I don't know how popular it was back in the day, but judging by the mixed critical response, I can't help but put it in the 'underrated' category.
Every now and again I'll watch a movie and I'll think "oh yes, I can see why that was rated R18", and I wonder how mature I really am. Without giving away too much of the plot, Hard Candy goes to some bizarre places, making for one of the most uncomfortable experiences I've ever had with a movie. And I was watching it alone. The story centres on 14 year old Hayley Stark (Ellen Page), who meets a charming photographer, Jeff (Patrick Wilson), online. She decides to meet up with him in order to expose him as a paedophile - need I say any more? When we first meet Hayley, we see this innocent, young, fragile girl. As the movie goes on, we get an entirely different story. Which made me wonder about the little 14 year olds in their first year of high school. Are they capable of being every paedophile's worst nightmare? I'd hate to think.
One of the things that I love about Hard Candy is the fact that it uses so few sets (probably only four, counting a cafe, a car, Jeff's house and his rooftop) and basically the entire movie focuses only only Ellen Page and Patrick Wilson. People seem to underestimate the power of not bombarding your audience with characters and different sets in order to prove a point. This is one of those movies that had me hooked from the very beginning, and no matter how silly it got (which it did, quite a few times), I could not peel my eyes away from the screen. I love simplicity. The main set itself, Jeff's house, brings a lot to the movie, as director David Slade uses the artsy architecture to his advantage. During some of the more disturbing moments, he often reverts back to the red walls in order to symbolise the violence going on, instead of showing it. It's just the simple things like that that make me want to become a director.
However, despite the fact that Slade has these simple touches, his direction is pretty erratic, which is kinda where I turned off. When Hayley is running through the house trying to find something, he insists on editing the shit of that sequence and jolting the camera more than necessary. Mind you, a lot of music video directors seem to do that these days (ahem, Mark Pellington with your stupid I Melt with You). His feature film debut, though, is an extremely strong and incredibly brave one. It's just a shame that he followed it up with films like 30 Days of Night and The Twilight Saga: Eclipse. Take a break from the vampires and go back to some good old paedophile torture, and you'll be as right as rain, mate.
The best thing about this film, though, is Ellen Page. Sure, Patrick Wilson is really good, even if I couldn't quite buy him as what he was accused of being. And I really like him as an actor, too. But Ellen Page...whoa. One thing I have always hated about the movies is the fact that they always get older actors to play teenagers, which makes it totally unbelievable. However, even though Page was 18 and she was tasked with being a 14 year old, she manages to look the part. It is hard to tell what age her character is really at, since she shows such maturity, but then such immaturity as well. There's never one moment when you feel like you know exactly who Hayley Stark is, which is why Page's performance is so jaw-droppingly brilliant. Words can't describe how absolutely terrifying she is, even though she looks like she couldn't hurt a fly.
Hard Candy is a wonderful film, but one I'd have a hard time recommending to people. Hell, it's been at least two months since I saw it and I'm still waiting for the scars to heal.
What I got: