A sultry chat room session between “Thonggrrrrrl14” and “Lensman319” leads to a hasty and impromptu rendezvous. Hayley (Ellen Page), a 14 year old honors student, awaits the arrival of Jeff (Patrick Wilson), her online chatting buddy with whom she has only known for 3 weeks. Jeff, a thirty-something photographer, arrives and greets Hayley by wiping a bit of smeared chocolate cake, which she ordered whilst waiting for him, off of her lips and licking it off his fingers in a charming and seductive manner. It becomes apparent that this is no mere friendly meeting as they engage in flirtatiously witty banter. They chit-chat for several more minutes engaging one another in intellectual small talk and flirting rather shamelessly, it is not long before Jeff is inviting Hayley back to his house to listen to “Goldfrap”, a band that Hayley likes. With a charming smile Hayley is whisked away to Jeff’s humble studio home. Once at Jeff’s home, things take a strange and unexpected turn of events.
From the very first scene you would assume that this movie is a movie about a pedophile and the sweet young Lolita that is to be his victim. However, that is merely the hard outer shell of this sweet masterpiece of a movie. Hard Candy, directed by David Slade, (30 Days of Night), and written by Brian Nelson, (who also wrote for 30 Days of Night) is marvelously crafted. A savage and suspenseful twisted on the all too common tales and dangers of online chat rooms. This movie takes the idea of series such as To Catch a Predator, at elevates it beyond simply catching them. This film is a psychological cat and mouse game that takes the potential predator and puts him in the role as the prey.
The flow of dialog is impressive if not a bit Hard to swallow. Though only having “chatted” for three weeks, Jeff and Hayley’s’ instant level of comfort with one another seems so unauthentic, strained almost. Hayley’s though only 14 is intellectually witty, her childish demeanor/exterior mask the seemingly mature and intelligent nature of her character. At certain points it is difficult to believe she is portraying a 14 year old due largely in part to the dialog which is uncommon for a fourteen year old. Perhaps it says more about the nature/manner that a normally budding young adult would assume when meeting an older more mature adult. To try harder to emulate or appear more adult-like than their age would convey. The banter between the two of them is genuine enough real word bias aside, the characters of Jeff and Hayley are two articulate and intelligent people and would only be remaining consistent within their roles.
Aside from the obvious moral and social issues connoted within the first scene, something seems amiss about the whole scenario. I accredit this underlying sense of unease with Ellen Page’s performance. Granted she is portraying a 14 year old girl meeting a strange man she meets over the internet for the first time, there of course should be a feeling of nervousness. However, she delivers an undertone of real mystery, a sense of something suspicious about her that really clenches the feeling of mounting suspense. Page’s performance continues to delight and frighten throughout the film as her character changes from a sweet, innocent, naive young girl into a psychotic and vicious interrogator. Ellen Page delivers a frightening performance of a ferociously vindictive nature.
It is amazing to watch how the lighting is used in the film to coincide with Hayley’s change in demeanor. Whilst she interrogates Jeff, who is bound to a chair, she is awash in hues of a bluish gray, then the lighting changes and she is once more the image of a sweet innocent and charming young lady, cheeks all flushed in pink, but then, within an instant explodes with all the rage of a hurricane. The tumultuous storm raging wild and violent then abruptly becoming calm, frighteningly so, misleading one to believe it is over but just as abruptly as the calm had come it is gone and the savage storm rages on. The lightening of the film only amplifies the powerful performances of Page and Wilson.
All in all, though Hard Candy may be a bit hard to swallow, it sure does taste good while going down. Beautifully cinema graphed, well written, exceptional acting, a thrilling plot and story line, makes this film amongst the sweetest cinematic treats I have ingested in a while.