Throwback Thursday Review: “Hard Candy” (2005)



Title: Hard Candy
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Posted July 28, 2016 by

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We’ve seen it before — the cat-and-mouse thriller — but never done quite as effectively as “Hard Candy”. The first feature film from director David Slade and screenwriter Brian Nelson, “Hard Candy” follows a young fourteen year old girl, Hayley Stark (Page), and a mid-30’s man, Jeff Kohlver (Wilson), as they decide to graduate their relationship from online flirting to in-person meeting. The very beginning of the film sets the tension and the uneasiness as they’re going back-and-forth on instant messenger, planning where to meet, and Hayley types that she needs to shower first and Jeff tells her he’s imagining it happen. The scene is set: a pedophile is meeting a young woman and now we have to worry about her for two hours.

Gritty, tense, disgusting, dramatic

It doesn’t take much convincing on Hayley’s part to get Jeff to take her back to his place that also acts as his photography studio. Upon entering the home, Hayley notices pictures of young female models decorating the walls and jealously jokes about how he’s probably slept with all of them. She makes them both a couple of screwdrivers, listens to music they both like, and then asks him to take photos of her. Everything leading up to this moment has been cringe-inducing as the fear of what’s about to happen builds up more and more. Here’s this older man clearly taking advantage of a young girl that doesn’t know any better and we just have to sit idly by as he does whatever he wants. Fortunately this is where the movie really begins as Hayley has spiked his drink and will now tie him up and torture him — physically and mentally — for what feels like forever. This is not your typical ‘predator and prey’ story; this is a revenge flick.


As the story progresses, we learn Hayley’s motive for everything she’s done and is still going to do, yet learn less about who she actually is. At the same time, the truth about Jeff — this charismatic, handsome photographer — becomes more apparent and terrifying as Hayley peels layer after layer away from his facade and outs him as the true creep he really is. His personality is much like his house — pristine on the outside and full of secrets hidden just below the surface.

This is not one of those films that won’t give you a payoff; “Hard Candy” does not leave you wanting more. In fact, it leaves you feeling like maybe it gave you more than you bargained for. A heavy drama for sure but one that is so much fun to watch.

Page and Wilson carry this movie with seemingly ease. While there are moments that both actors allowed their dramatic moments to get the best of them, they both were able to reign it back in before it became a problem and return the film to a scene of realism. The entire movie you’re rooting for Page. You’re hoping she gets away with whatever her ultimate plan is but there’s that sense that something is going to go wrong. On the other side, Wilson makes it really hard to hate this despicable character. He plays him as charming, careful, and for small moments actually sympathetic. That quickly goes away, however, when his true self seeps through. You have to remember that at the time the movie was made, Patrick Wilson and Ellen Page were relatively unknown. Hell, the most popular actor at the time in this movie was Sandra Oh and she is only in it for a short amount of time as a concerned neighbor. David Slade and Brian Nelson really trusted these two actors with the source material and the final product shows why.

Gritty, tense, disgusting, dramatic: “Hard Candy” is one of those movies you have to watch.





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