Wednesday, May 06, 2009
REVIEW: Hard Candy
Director: David Slade
Starring: Ellen Page, Patrick Wilson, Sandra Oh, Odessa Rae, G.J. Echternkamp
MPAA: Rated R
The idea for Hard Candy came from a news story that producer David Higgins saw about young Japanese girls who would lure older businessmen to a location with the promise of meaningful conversation and would assault and mug the men with a gang of other girls once the men arrived. Intrigued by the idea, he hired writer Brian Nelson to use it for a story. Since the movie was deemed controversial, the budget for the film was kept under a million so the production company wouldn't change anything. The film was met with some critical reception and its box office numbers were really disappointing. I only heard about this movie once and that was when fellow blogger Mitch, reviewed it back in July of 2008. Since than, I have been wanting to see this movie, but just never had the time to properly sit down and watch it.
For three weeks, 14-year-old Hayley Stark (Ellen Page) has been chatting on-line with 'Lensmaster319', a 32-year old fashion photographer, named Jeff (Patrick Wilson). The two agree to meet at a coffee shop called Nighthawks. They hit it off, despite the massive age difference. Hayley appears to flirt with Jeff, and Jeff generally restrains himself, even admitting that he must wait 4-years until he can be with her. But his reservations are apparently not enough to decline when Hayley all but invites herself over to his house. Once at the house, manipulation becomes the name of the game, and the pedophile seems to be on the non-traditional side of it.
The films plot is essentially an interesting piece of nugget to digest. I honestly wasn't expecting to see a film based on this premise or at least on one that has some well known actors. What makes the film's story so interesting is the fact that you never see any of the motives or the character's actions coming. Its like you think you know whats coming, but you end up guessing wrong. It also helps that the film basically relies on two main characters which results in some good character development. You focus on these two characters and make your own opinion on them. You get to love them or hate them in almost everyway. The script is effective in terms of adding tension between the two characters, but also effective in terms of questioning their actions in the film. The movie does tend to slow down in some key parts, but overall the pacing is somewhat fast. The film gets straight into its point a good 20 mins into the movie. Their are parts of the film where the script seems somewhat off because it isn't clear on what its trying to bring out. It also seemed that Ellen Page's character was alot smarter than she really is. The ending was also un-expected, but one that I thought was simply enticing. I can see some people being frustrated with it since it doesn't end in a way normal audiences would have wanted it to, but I thought it was kind of clever.
Ellen Page plays as Hayley Stark and she simply nails this role. I have always been a fan of Page's work, but I think this role was made for her. She gives a great performance as Hayley and kept me interested through out the movie. It really felt like she was this young girl looking for online dating at first, but she quickly had me change my mind about her character. Her acting is one of the best I have seen in sometime and she definitely made the film that much more thrilling and gripping. Patrick Wilson plays as the older character of Jeff Kohlver. I honestly haven't seen Wilson in any other film except in Watchmen. Which is really surprising since hes fantastic in this film. He really delivers a performance that's roughly on par with Ellen Page which in my mind is a tough thing to pull off. He also nails the look and feel of Jeff, and the basic figure for what an average pedophile might look like. We also have Sandra Oh playing as Judy Tokuda. She does a good job of acting in the small role that she has, but I do wish their was more screen time for her, since her role feels more like a cameo rather than a supporting cast member.
The visual look of the film is somewhat gritty. This was released in 2006 in North America so its films source is still in pretty good shape. I was able to notice some film grain, but I think this was done intentionally to create a sense of danger in the atmosphere. Colors are somewhat split between normal and muted. The first half of the film is somewhat colorful, but the other half is mostly muted. Its lighting is also interesting because it tends to shift back and forth in terms of making the character's seem angry or happy. The film never pops in terms of color saturation and nor should it need to. The muted look the film captures seems to suit it well. Black levels are also strong if not alittle weak in some areas. Its not the best I have seen, but its also not the worse. Flesh tones are natural looking, but does tend to look somewhat waxy at times. Detail is generally strong, but never manages to surprise me. Its a good looking movie for what it is, but just don't go in expecting the best of the best in terms of picture quality.
The soundtrack in Hard Candy is mostly going to rely on personal choice. The films music is composed by Harry Escott and Molly Nyman. That fact that I said its going to rely on your personal choice, is that the film never really has music playing in the background. This is somewhat of a quite film and never really uses sound to help move things. Their is still music in the film, but hardly not enough to warrant two composers. Now, I'm personally fine with this because I think it makes the film much more realistic and captivating. The only noise we basically hear is mainly for sound effects. The bass in the film is also quite just like the music. We hardly get enough rumbles and if we do, its only for a matter of seconds. This really isn't the type of film to feature a bombastic bass, but I do wish it sounded alittle more aggressive since it would have only added to the tensity of the film.
Hard Candy is an intriguing movie with some sort of a controversial concept. The story is fascinating and thrilling for what it is. Their are times where it feels alittle slow or something isn't clicking, but its generally a solid movie. I think this is director David Slade's best film yet and one that actually doesn't suck. The cast is fantastic with Ellen Page delivering a great performance that's worth seeing. Patrick Wilson is also excellent in the film and on par with Ellen Page. The visual look of the film is mixed between some scenes that tend to be somewhat colorful, while others that appear mostly muted. Their is hardly any soundtrack to the film, but it does use its sound effects effectively. I enjoyed Hard Candy because it was refreshing and exhilarating. I can recommend this to those seeking a heavy dialogue driven film or to those looking for an independent film with hardly any special effects. It ain't perfect, but it movie definitely leaves you thinking about it.