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Hard Candy (2005) Review

Updated on July 9, 2010
17-year-old Ellen Page plays 14-year old Hayley Stark
17-year-old Ellen Page plays 14-year old Hayley Stark

Netflix had been recommending this movie to me for a while, and when I finally saw it featured in this article on the most controversial films of the 21st century, I had to watch it. Not because I’m a fan of controversy, but because I like films that think outside the box, even if that is the ‘box’ of what’s permitted to play in our theaters, or what we think of as morally correct. This film did not disappoint in that regard.

Something that has always interested me greatly when it comes to films is how they are written and shot to make us identify with a certain character, the protagonist, and support them in their struggle against an antagonist. Usually, we are convinced that the protagonist is morally in the right; because we are following him/her, we have no choice but to root for him/her. We also have a tendency to root for the underdog; if a character is already in a position of power, we don’t usually feel a desire for them to succeed. There are few films that trouble these basic rules. Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho immediately comes to mind as a brilliant one, and then there’s Hard Candy.

A 14-year-old girl asks a much older man she met online to meet her at a coffee shop. She’s flirtatious, and somehow shy but still sure of herself. She manages to convince the man, who seems reluctant at first, to let her come over to his place.

You can imagine what might happen next, and it doesn’t look good, but what actually happens is way worse. I don’t want to give anything at all away, and I suggest that if you see this movie you go in with an open mind. Don’t let a summary ruin it for you. What you should know is: the idea of protagonist and antagonist is completely turned on its head. Rooting for the underdog becomes just as wrong as rooting for the antagonist, and yet we do. Such is the structure of a film, that I found myself readily identifying with a terrible person. This was a revelation for me as a writer. I realized that even if you took the worst person on earth, and you put them in this kind of trouble, people would feel for them.

This movie is not controversial because it is physically graphic (it isn’t, although there is a very painful bit that is implied rather than shown), it is controversial because it takes morality into its hands and questions it. Constantly we find ourselves asking “Who is more wrong?” And the way the film is written, there is only one answer. All the way up to the ending, this movie has us wondering if that answer could possibly be right.

I hope this hub wasn’t too confusing. Be sure to come back and read it once you’ve seen the film. It’ll make more sense then, I’m sure! By the way, if you're like me and you like unique films, you'll probably like Hard Candy. I'm giving it my recommendation as long as you know you're getting into some pretty intense stuff. (The trailers before the DVD menu were all for cheap horror movies, so that might help give you an idea of where people place this film as far as genre. As far as class, it's a cut above the rest in my book.)


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    • girlincape profile image

      Kasey Rubenstein 7 years ago from California

      It was a strange sort of performance from her. I don't know that I was entirely convinced by it, but it must be hard to play a character like that. She did a pretty good job. The tension between the characters was excellent. Don't forget the random appearance by Sandra Oh!

      Thanks again for your comment and praise.

    • epigramman profile image

      epigramman 7 years ago

      ..this is a great little movie about a cat and a mouse game - with more twists than a pretzel and this is probably the movie that made Ellen Page a star (in my eyes anyway) - and the fact that it's about two characters only - it could have been a stage play!

      good work from you - with respects to Roger Ebert - I give thumbs up to you!

    • girlincape profile image

      Kasey Rubenstein 7 years ago from California

      You're very welcome, and thanks for your comment!

    • carolina muscle profile image

      carolina muscle 7 years ago from Charlotte, North Carolina

      Thanks for a very interesting review!