Hard Candy (2005)
Written by Brian Nelson Directed by David Slade
One thing I’ve always enjoyed about Independent films is the comfort of being able to see things that otherwise wouldn’t get the time of day from big named studios. Though perhaps considered “too daring,” the lost opportunities for showcasing compelling stories are always there. However, at the other end of that spectrum, with less money comes the bigger risk of letting something be shown for it’s true aspect. Thus giving those behind the film the chance to show their creativity in ways they could feel truly comfortable with.
Having started a small production company up, producer David W. Higgins insisted on having his assistants write out ideas gathered from stories seen on shows as Dateline or 20/20. Finding one of particular interest concerning a group of young girls that would find older suitors online in Japan. With the sole intent of ambushing/mugging them upon agreeing to meet in person. Which he passed along to writer Brian Nelson who seemed hesitant about such an idea at first. Yet contacted him the next day to state how he couldn’t put the idea down and began working on a treatment right away. Two impressive aspects to the film being that Nelson’s first draft of the script was the one used, finding right away what was wanting to be captured. The next being that David Slade, who was brought on to direct, had only formally been subjected to making music videos. Yet captured a great visionary piece within a matter of 18 days and obtained a small yet powerful cast to see his vision put forth.
We follow Hayley (Ellen Page) and Jeff (Patrick Wilson), who have been chatting online for the past three weeks. Sharing in similar interests and exchanging in flirtatious chatting that leads to the suggestion of meeting finally at the nearby coffee shop; Nighthawks. What would seem like otherwise normal behavior in this day and age except for the fact that Hayley happened to be 14 with Jeff 18 years her senior. But perhaps that wouldn’t be the best way to phrase it. *Sidenote: Those behind the film did at one point suggest Page saying something about actually being 18 (to be perhaps, less creepy). Though she refused, knowing it would take away the entire aspect of having an intelligent and strong front woman of that age. A rarity in itself*
Once they arrive at Jeff’s is where we receive an ambitious runaround that is up to it’s audience to determine right from wrong. Or which side to believe, if at all. Hayley wastes no time in making aware her depths of knowledge, varying on many subjects. Almost flaunting her youth as a means of testing Jeff. Who doesn’t seem to mind any, having a retort for just about anything she may have to say. Offering her a drink, though admitting to never allowing a stranger to pour such for her. Claiming she could mix up something “more creative” either way. Which leads us into the second part of the film and we see a hidden agenda from her. It seems Jeff holds some secrets that she intended to further look into, having done her research well by this point. Ultimately leading to an ultimatum with a ‘Get out of jail free card.” Going to all the trouble on account of a missing girl by the name of Donna Mauer; undoubtedly a close friend of our heroine.
Total, there were about 9 minutes of score, though sufficed by the constant array of close-ups. Which were a fantastic way to emphasize certain words throughout the script as well of the intensity both Actors held with the other the entirety of the movie. There was also an unexpected palette used in the house that allowed certain parts to blend within there background. Something I’m not sure was planned but made certain scenes really stick out within how the story choose to unfold. While the story is clearly well told and written, the trouble that was had in finding these two proves well worth the wait. They interviewed over 300 girls for the part of Hayley and almost passed up on Ellen on account of having shaved off her hair for her previous role in Mouth to Mouth (Which was also a great film). The innocence held in Patrick’s face mirrored off the way Ellen coyly led him on. Showing no mercy and fully letting out her inner psycho. Or mere distaste for the way this man attempted to show himself to be, ‘not a bad guy.’ Leaving things more-so to our imagination as to the extent of his disease. Though her feeble body isn’t given entirely too much credit as Jeff is given the chance to call the police yet decides that chasing her was more to his preference. Would an innocent man act in similar behavior? Or was he well within his right to let out such a side despite his sick nature.
To add further conflict, there’s a moment when his neighbor sees Hayley among the roof, later going over to inquire about such among other things. Though visible of how unexpected she was, was the last thing standing in her way of completing her task. Which is equipped with a kinda beautiful slo-motion shot of it all ending as she leaves as though the days events had not occurred. So it wasn’t necessarily as though this was some sort of hobby but a means of righting a wrong. Overall an infectious story-line mixed with some subtle yet dynamic editing that keeps you engaged from the moment the characters first enter the screen.