Hard Candy

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Movie Review by Dan Spiers

Starring: Patrick Wilson, Ellen Page, Sandra Oh, Jennifer Holmes, Gilbert John
Director: David Slade

HARD CANDY, directed by David Slade, is about a blossoming chatroom relationship. But it’s not exactly YOU’VE GOT MAIL. Hayley (Ellen Page) is a 14 year-old schoolgirl and Jeff (Patrick Wilson) a fashion photographer in his mid-thirties.

And at the centre of their relationship is a castration. Yes, these characters have never met, but after a brief chat they return to Jeff’s flat, where he is drugged, tied to a chair and tortured.

Hayley is doing this, she tells us, because Jeff, charming, debonair Jeff is a murderous paedophile, and she wants him to confess.

This leads her to strap him to an improvised operating table and remove his testicles. Rubber gloves are worn, blood spilt, stitches sewn and jokes told. And throughout it is difficult to decide quite what is going on.

For there are no moral guidelines in this film. People regularly talk about castrating sexual offenders but watching a 14 year-old do it is hardly satisfying. Who’s the victim? The great success of this film is that it is impossible to decide.

But HARD CANDY is more than a bloody castration. Written by playwright Brian Nelson, it feels like it belongs on stage. There are only two characters on screen, on one set, for the majority of the film. The performances from both Wilson and Page are excellent. Hayley is precociously irritating, Jeff both pitiable and revolting.

But ultimately we know nothing about either character. Their conversations are a web of lies, to such an extent that it is impossible to determine fact from fiction. There are no emotional footholds and though this is interesting it leaves you detached and at times disinterested. Heroes and villains are often masked, but the fun lies in discovering their true identity. HARD CANDY does not give us that satisfaction.

3 out of 6 stars