What happens when a 32 year-old man befriends a 14 year-old girl over the internet? Is he looking for an innocent friend, to fulfill some sort of sexual fantasy, or is the young teenager the one in control? The film is called Hard Candy. It stars Kevin Wilson, Ellen Page and a quick appearance by Sandra Oh. I was fascinated by the DVD on the shelf of the video store. There were only two copies on the new release shelf, and one was checked out. I read the back and thought it seemed like a good little thriller for a weeknight at home. The manager said she had to order extras because it was so popular. That was encouraging, assuming people must be talking about it.
Ellen Page is 14 year-old Hayley Stark, and does an excellent job of appearing smart for her age, yet naive. Kevin Wilson plays 32 year-old Jeff Kohlver who’s a photographer and comes across as charming and harmless.The film begins with an on-line chat taking place between the two. You don’t see them, just their chat window. They flirt with each other and end up meeting at a coffee house where. Jeff is clean-cut, a bit nerdy and is at ease around Haley from the beginning. “You work as a photographer, you find out that peoples faces lie real quick”, he says during one of their cafe rendezvous. Eventually they end up at the Jeffs home on a hill overlooking Los Angeles. They are enjoying each others company, chatting about music, and life in general.
Jeff mixes a few drinks and hands one to Hayley. She looks up and says, “They teach us young kids not drink what we haven’t mixed ourselves”. He smiles, and says she can mix her own if she likes. She does, and makes one for him too. After a few of those, Haley loosens up and convinces Jeff to take pictures of her. As she is posing and jumping around in her semi-drunken state (fully clothed), Jeff suddenly gets dizzy and collapses. When he wakes up, he is bound tightly to a chair, unable to move. Once the disorientation passes, Jeff asks what’s going on. Haley, who has suddenly lost her innocent little charm, looks right at his face and says “Remember what I said about not drinking anything you haven’t mixed yourself?…That’s good advice for everyone“.
The film takes off from there down a very twisted road. The two characters are the only ones you see for 90% of the movie. It was done so well that you actually start feeling sorry for Jeff because Haley is psychotic. At first you think she’s just a smart girl getting the best of an online pedophile, but quickly you learn she’s psychotic. You can’t help but admire her brains as she dissects Jeffs motives. The filmmakers don’t give you a reason to think Jeff is getting what he deserves, though it’s obvious a 32 year-old meeting a 14 year-old can’t have good intentions. But they never prove that he’s a “bad guy”… As for Haley, she’ll freak you out. Page does an incredible job, her performance rocks! Wilson is good as well, but Page really carries this entire film.
“Was I born a cute vindictive bitch, or was I just made that way?”
Hard Candy is directed by David Slade and written by Brian Nelson. Enjoy!