Friday, 20 November 2009

Don't Worry. I Promise. I'll Take Care Of It All.

Or not.

Chilling, chilling, chilling. Hard Candy is particularly disturbing film. Disturbing because the characters are completely reversed from your standard thriller scenario. This isn't Saw. The traditionally-termed 'victim', the person undergoing the physical and psychological torture, is actually the monster by character, and the aggressor, the perpetrator of said torture, is representative of the true victims and the morality (in a sense) of wider society.

Ellen Page (of Juno fame) plays Hayley and stars alongside Patrick Wilson (Globe nominated for Angels In America and not related to Luke and Owen) - Jeff - in this tale of vindictive redemption. Page's breakout sees her playing a 14 year old girl who meets up with a much older (32 by my count) man played by Wilson after they befriend each other in an internet chat room. She flirts with him and him back with her, and they end up back at his house. He is a photographer, with photos of young models lining his walls - his work is his studio, when questioned by Hayley. However, he also has a dirty, dirty secret... and Hayley knows it. She subdues him, ties him up and tortures him as she extracts various confessions over the course of the day, and some of her torture is quite gruesome. Eventually she leaves him with the option to take his own life or face the wrath of the law and public humiliation.

This was the first performance to put Page front and centre on the map, and my god was it a blinder. A teenager (as she was when the film was released) couldn't really have hoped for a juicier role, and she grabs hold of it at attacks it with gusto. You don't know whether to love her or hate her - what relationship does she have to Jeff's secret? Why does it fall to her to be the vigilante? Why does she care enough to put herself on the line and take the risks she does? Whatever the case, the lesson is clear - don't fuck with Ellen Page. Actually, the real lesson is not to do the terrible things Jeff did, because otherwise your conscience will win out and exact an appropriate punishment.

Wilson provides fine support, but Page is the true standout in a very confronting film. The film also looked beautiful, with colours that looked just heightened a little bit to make everything seem a little clearer, a little more extreme. And I think that is my only major problem with it - it didn't feel quite real. While the story and Hayley's actions don't feel entirely believable either, the heightened visual nature almost pushes it over into disbelief. I think a grittier reality portrayed behind the actors might have allowed their extremes to play out a little closer to the truth, but instead it didn't hit home in the emotional way I think it could have - it felt a little distant at times.

So I'm going to give Hard Candy 3.5 stars. An astonishing performance from the young Page and the twisting of the standard characterisation are definite plusses. I'd put this fairly high on a list of films to see from this decade.

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