Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

Hard Candy


There’s a lot I’d like to say about this film, but I can’t get started without a small


I say small, because I think just about everybody knows about the twist that occurs about 15 minutes into the film. Hell, it’s given away even by the picture on the DVD box. Which leads me to muse … in these days when so many more people are paying so much more attention to movies many months or even years before their release, is it still possible to spring a real surprise on the audience? I guess it is, but it’s a lot harder, and you almost have to close your ears to be unaware. And the studios even help you out, with things like the box cover. I mean, I get the feeling that if Psycho were released today, instead of saying “Do not reveal the ending! No one will be seated during the last half hour!” the posters would say “Janet Leigh dies halfway through!” And “Tony Perkins is really his dead mom!” When was the last time I was really surprised in a major way, not just little plot twists? Well, there’s been a couple of times. I didn’t know in The Usual Suspects that Kevin Spacey was really Keyser Söze (oops! Hope you didn’t know that already!). And I also say small because the surprise really comes early, so the movie is not spoiled by knowing that she is stalking him rather than the other way around. But it would have been nice not to know …

This is a real thought-provoker. There are so many things to think about here, from gut reaction to intellectual exercise. Is it really believable that a 14-year-old girl could be as smart and cunning as portrayed here? Not really, but hey, 99% of criminal masterminds in the movies are way smarter than just about anybody in real life. I can accept it as a fictional device.

What are your thoughts about torture? I’m agin it … except in those very, very, very rare instances when it might become absolutely necessary to get some information very, very, very fast in order to save a life. The sort of situation in the original Dirty Harry movie, for instance, where a woman is buried alive and only one asshole knows where she is. I’d have gutted the sonofabitch slowly and fed his intestines to him … and I would have expected to be fired and probably indicted for it later, as would be only proper. Or the sort of once-in-a-lifetime situation Jack Bauer apparently encounters at least once every hour in the TV series “24.” (I’ve never seen it, but that’s what I hear.) Or for being Iraqi and living in Baghdad … wait a minute, that’s Dick Cheney’s standard for legitimizing torture, not mine. Most people I know are solidly against torture, usually without even the above exceptions … except in one case.

Pedophiles. Child rapists and murderers. I have lost track of the number of times I’ve heard otherwise peaceful, loving people—the majority of them women—recommend cutting their fucking dicks off and/or castrating them, with or without anesthetic.

This movie makes you confront that ethic. It grabs you by the nape of the neck and thrusts you face-first right into the scrotum and let’s you watch … though there isn’t a speck of gore in it. There doesn’t have to be. Showing Patrick Wilson’s face as he is subjected to the procedure (or is he?) is graphic enough. Still want to castrate ’em? Hell, I still do, but is Ellen Page as the 14-year-old surgeon having maybe a little too much fun as she cuts? Is she enjoying it as much as the baby-raper enjoyed his underage sweeties?

As if all this weren’t disturbing enough, there is another creepy thing going on, as Roger Ebert pointed out. Some men like being tied up and hurt. Do you think they might get their rocks off on this film? Personally, I doubt it. Bondage is playing-acting, usually, and the guys who like it want to be screamed at, dominated by an older woman with whips and chains and leather, not toyed with by a barely-pubescent girl. And yes, there are guys who are turned on by castration, and not even the fantasy of it but the real deal (there are actual websites devoted to this, believe it or not), but that’s a very small and {[very}} sick minority.

One review said this is one of the movies that when you leave it, you’ll be talking about it with your friends for a long time, and you probably won’t come to any easy answers. I agree. It challenges you, again and again and again, as you learn more about the pedophile (and, at first, you aren’t even sure if he’s a pedophile or just a slightly creepy voyeur) and more about the girl. I’ll say no more about that. See it and decide.

There is only one flaw in the pic. The movie is a verbal and physical duel between two people, and it should have been left at that. There are two other people who appear briefly, and they were entirely superfluous to the relentless thrust of the story of the two. It was a waste of screen time and a distraction to bring in the outer world. The only world that existed, for these two, for a short while, was the house and their anger and fear and the past that was dragged out like a bloody testicle or a monster baby, kicking and screaming. Patrick Wilson is very, very good here. He is called on to do some suffering most men don’t even want to imagine, and do it for long periods of time. But he is totally eclipsed by Ellen Page, who was 17 at the time but looks 14. She makes Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction look like Glinda the Good Witch, and she never has to scream and froth at the mouth to do it. There’s not even a hint of insanity. She knows exactly what she’s doing, and why, and she stays three steps ahead of her quarry most of the time. Even when he seems to gain a momentary advantage, she turns out to have been one step ahead of him. This has got to be one of the most empowering roles ever for a woman.