Do you like plays, photos and pedophiles? If so, you'll be in luck with Hard Candy. Others, proceed with caution.
Hard Candy is a very self-contained, almost claustrophobic, nearly two-person movie (think of it as My Dinner With Andre for the MySpace set) about a 14 year old girl and her online honey, a thirty-something photographer who takes her back to his place for what he thinks is a good time. After he's drugged, tied up, and has a sharp object threatening his manhood, he realizes his idea of a good time and hers are two very different things.
We first meet the pair as they're IMing online, then they meet each other at a casual coffeehouse, where they flirt and titter. She bats her lashes, her buys her a present. One thing leads to another, and they decide to go back to his place. Hayley (Ellen Page) sees some of Jeff's (Patrick Wilson) photography on the walls, and asks that he take her picture, too. They graduate from coffee to screwdrivers, and the screwing begins… not the kind you're thinking! As the tagline for Hard Candy says, strangers should never talk to little girls. Turns out Hayley is a psychopath with an ax to grind.
Helmer David Slade and writer Brian Nelson are to be commended for their direction and dialogue, but the story leaves much to be desired (not because of the subject matter, but how it stretches credibility and belieavabiltiy — kudos to Page and Wilson for keeping it as real as humanly possible). There are some silly red herrings, and we never really learn why Hayley is so vengeful. There are twists and turns, however all but one are as predictable as Calistoga's Old Reliable.
More cold and calculating than chilling and controversial, Hard Candy is still worth a look for its excellent acting and acerbic dialogue.
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Reviewed by Staci Layne Wilson