How do you get into the pros and cons of a pedophilia flick? To attempt to I’ve given some thought to films I consider to be a bitÃ¢â‚¬Â¦ wellÃ¢â‚¬Â¦ umÃ¢â‚¬Â¦ like Hard Candy, other films that hint around this taboo. With these examples I’m hoping some frame of reference can be gleaned. Here we go: Beautiful Girls, Mystic River, The Woodsman, and Sleepers. I can’t think of any others at the moment but I invite the adoring public to chime in. Anywhoo, Hard Candy is right in the middle of these attempts, no where near the cinematic fun or execution of a Beautiful Girls or Mystic River, but maybe a little better and more relevant than The Woodsman and Sleepers.
Hard Candy starts out very strong, even if the strength is based on a bunch of audience discomfort. There were many times I felt a bit queasy and wished I could be somewhere else (such as Cabo San Lucas). This is mostly due to the plot, which is of a fourteen year old taking an alleged pedophile hostage. Maybe he’s in to little girls, maybe he’s not, who knows? I’m not here to ruin movies, I’m here to feel weird about watching youngsters as sex objects.
That said, I’ve got to commend Ellen Page for her portrayal of Hayley Stark. Stark is a 14 year old with an agenda but she looks much younger than that and thinks much older than that. I guess she was 17 when she filmed this but I’m not sure if it’s the hairdo or what but she reminded me of a 5th grader which ratcheted up the creepiness factor. The good news is it also heightened the suspense level as no one wants to see this kind of gal as a sexual being. Another factor in this mental barrage is the hostage because you don’t really want to see a dude tortured either. Who do you cheer for, the youngling who may not be playing with a full deck and is out of her element or a probable molester who’s taking more than a little bad times? You cheer for Page but it’s never a completely black and white issue.
Hard Candy fails at being good because it has enormous logic gaps mixed with a relatively unsatisfying ending. That’s not the prescription for greatness! I thought the first 30 minutes were a nice ramp up but this one eats gravel once it gets to the jump. It might be worth seeing if you are film buff, a fan of extreme artistic close-ups, good dialogue, or nice suspense and aren’t so hung up on a payoff. On the other hand, if you are the general public you’ll probably want to skip this one. I don’t know that there was a storyline that would have worked for this idea but I know this one didn’t work for me. If I want to feel weird for an hour I’ll just go climb the rope in gym class.