Thursday, April 06, 2006
Hard Candy reviewed
Posted by JPX
HARD CANDY: THIS KIND OF CANDY DOESN'T MELT IN YOUR MOUTH
by Albert Lanier
Some guys think they have all the angles figured out when it comes to women.
Such a guy might think that he knows all the right lines-the right words-that will cause a woman to smile at him, laugh at his supposedly witty jokes and invite him back to her place where the highlight of the night will be when the lady screams the gentleman's name out in the throes of naked passion.
Yep, guys like that think they're the shit.
Until they get into deep shit.
Jeff-one of the main characters in the new film HARD CANDY when was screened on Sunday April 2nd at Hiff 's Spring Showcase in Honolulu-is just such a man.
He "meets" a girl on a chat site on-line. Going under the handle Lensman 319, Jeff chats with Thongirrl14 who seems witty and well-read (author Zadie Smith is brought up at one point-don't get too excited and tingly out there all you English majors).
Lensman and Thongirrl make a date to meet at a coffee shop called Nighthawks (there's a reference you art history lovers should enjoy-see, all those thousands of dollars your parents spent on college weren't wasted even if you Art Majors are reading this review after getting off your shift at Starbucks).
Thongirrl and Lensman make it to Nighthawks. Thongirrl's real name is Hayley and she and Jeff hit it off even if she is underage and he's in his thirties.
Hayley and Jeff engage in the kind of verbal badinage that passes for flirtatious talk in cleverly written screenplays for independently produced films nowadays.
Who knows? Maybe love is brewing amongst the Cafe Lattes and Mochas at Nighthawks.
In any event, Jeff and Hayley decide to head out to Jeff's house in the hills from which you can see L.A. spread out before you like mayonnaise on a piece of wheat bread (What! I'm health conscious).
It turns out Jeff is a fashion photographer and he opens a door to reveal a room with colored backgrounds which he uses to shoot models for varied assignments and jobs.
Again, more verbal foreplay. Hayley and Jeff trade quips and smiles at each other. At one point, Hayley casually says "4 out of 5 doctors agree I'm Insane."
Jeff brushes off this statement by trying to be witty. Big mistake.
Jeff hands Hayley a drink and she provides him (and the audience) with another interesting tidbit when Hayley notes she never drinks anything she hasn't mixed.
So, Hayley mixes some screwdrivers and she and Jeff gulp them down.
At one point Hayley puts on some music. She starts to take off a couple items of clothing in the living room. "Shoot me" she calls out to Jeff in a sexy, fuck me voice.
Jeff seems a little taken back with her aggressiveness but would probably like to respond...if he didn't feel so light headed and disoriented. It almost feels as if he is about to pass out.
Which is precisely what happens.
That's all you need to know about the plot and story of HARD CANDY, a tough, nasty little film that takes a story better suited to the stage and manages to make the material cinematic enough to be compelling both verbally and visually.
And what a vicious story it is too. Screenwriter Brian Nelson has essentially crafted a story that involves a seduction of sorts but instead of getting passionate lovemaking, we get intense violence.
You also have to hand it to HARD CANDY's Director David Slade and his DP Jo Willems. Both Slade and Willems understand the audience that the story itself might keep people watching the screen but that the look will guarantee that they don't look at their watches constantly.
This is largely achieved through the use of color. HARD CANDY is shot more like a commercial than your average indie film. The colors pop out at us, the reds look as inviting as a gorgeous apple or cherry that looks good enough to eat and the pale skin tone of the actors make them seem like models in a magazine ad.
Colors also serve as a sort of slight visual subtext. Take the scene where Hayley is shown the backgrounds he uses to shoot models. Slade shoots close ups of Hayley's face alternating between red in the background in one scene and yellow in another. This effect seems like a traffic light (stop, wait) the difference is we won't have to see the light turn Green to know when it is Hayley's turn to "go".
Speaking of Hayley, Ellen Page turns in a brilliant performance as Hayley. Page has to walk a very narrow tightrope in filling out the role of Hayley because she can't overplay the material otherwise the film will come off melodramatic and strained.
As the film's integral character, Page knows she is the dramatic center of HARD CANDY. Like a successful gambler, Page knows when to fold and when to call, never forcing her lines but speaking with clear confidence and facility, never telegraphing her facial expressions but letting her emotions show when necessary.
Patrick Wilson has an even tougher task in playing Jeff, the photographer with secrets of his own. Wilson has to pull off a physically and emotionally grueling performance including a couple of speeches delivered under the most trying of circumstances and he largely succeeds.
HARD CANDY reminded me of the Farrah Fawcett movie EXTREMITIES which she made in the 80's and no doubt a few smart AICN talkbackers (let's face it there aren't too many of them) might remember.
The big difference is that EXTREMITIES is essentially a sadistic film that has to traffic is specious justifications in order to make its content even vaguely palatable morally.
HARD CANDY isn't so much about justification than implementation. We know why Hayley carries out her mission and though we may be a bit squeamish about her methods as the female murderers sang about in CHICAGO-he had it coming.
I mean, c'mon. Hayley's red-hooded sweater was kind of a giveaway.
That's what I always try to tell my pals: Ladies are sometimes hard to read. The babes that actually look like Red Riding Hood may turn out to be the wolf."
at 4:29 AM