Hard Candy (Lions Gate, R)

Although the film has some third act problems, which are usually the death of thrillers such as this one, Hard Candy is a thoroughly enjoyable and original film.

 

 

In the past decade or so, it seems like trailers for films have gone farther and farther in the direction of giving away absolutely everything that happens over the course of the film that they are supposed to promote. Plot twists ruined, character deaths shown—hell, even endings ruined; nothing’s sacred anymore. However, I’m happy to report that the trailer for the new independent thriller, Hard Candy, which is poised to be one of 2006’s first sleeper hits, does not give much of anything away. Or perhaps it is the case that there is too much to give away in Hard Candy, and no matter how much the trailer’s editors wanted to spoil it, they just couldn’t fit it all in. Regardless, one can watch the trailer and still get the maximum amount of enjoyment out of the film, which is definitely a rarity these days.

Hard Candy stars relative newcomers Ellen Page and Patrick Wilson as Hayley and Jeff, respectively, who met in an Internet chat room and decide to meet in person, which sets up the events of the film. The conflict in the story comes from the fact that Hayley and Jeff met in the context of potentially having a romantic relationship, and Jeff is a 32-year-old photographer (whose photographs are arguably of the questionable variety) and Hayley is a very small, androgynous 14-year-old girl. The film never quite manages to go where you think it is going to, and even with me littering this review with references that it is a completely unpredictable thriller full of plot twists, you still won’t be able to figure out where it is going, so don’t even try.

Although the film has some third act problems, which are usually the death of thrillers such as this one, Hard Candy is a thoroughly enjoyable and original film. It plays more or less like a filmed play—the vast majority of the action takes place on one set between two actors, and the film is heavily laden with smart dialogue. Much is required of director David Slade (who is best known for helming music videos) to direct it tightly and his two actors to be endlessly engaging, and all three really nail their jobs here. Page in particular is fantastic, now 19 with a long, great career in front of her if she plays her cards properly. The good news is that there is no reason to think that Page—or Wilson or Slade for that matter—will play their cards improperly, with a film like Hard Candy on their resumé this early in their careers.

Official Site

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