Hard Candy - internet slang for an underage girl who is particularly attractive and gullible.
14-year-old Haley and 32-year old photographer Jeff have been chatting on the internet for three weeks. During their latest digital flirting, they finally decide to meet at a local coffee shop. During the brief meeting, the two continue their double-meaning laced conversation, and when Haley discovers that Jeff has a bootleg of a recent concert, she practically invites herself over to his house. Jeff hardly resists, and the two are soon on the road.
Once at his isolated home, Haley and Jeff discuss his photography, and Haley discovers that many of Jeff's subjects are underage models, which he has framed all over his house. Haley finds Jeff's alcohol, and begins mixing drinks for themselves, and once tipsy insists that she becomes Jeff's next model. But before he can pull of any snapshots, he passes out from Haley's laced drinks. He awakens to discover he has been tied up, and it is then that Haley divulges her true intention - that she believes Jeff to be a pedophile and is intent on breaking a confession out of him. She quickly trashes through the house looking for evidence, and when she finds what she thinks is her proof, she begins the next stage of her plan - righteous punishment via castration! Jeff proclaims his innocence again and again, but will his words be heard by the clearly unstable Haley?
Most moviegoers will recognize actress Ellen Page as Kitty Pryde from X-MEN: THE LAST STAND. Here though, she is transformed into a short-haired, innocent girl who appears to be over her head at first, but makes a complete 180 to show that she has been in control during the entire build up to her meeting with Jeff (Patrick Wilson). Though billed second, Page is the one who carries this film, and her chameleon-like ability to subtly switch from innocent to menacing is what makes the film come through. Both actors deserve the highest of praise as the two are the only characters in the entire film, which takes place on a single set, save for two brief scenes. It is their professional manner, as well as a tightly written and intelligent script and direction that includes the use of some wicked cinematography and color usage that never lets the film become dull.
Director David Slade makes his explosive and impressive feature-length debut with HARD CANDY. Filmed in just eighteen days, Slade uses camera work and colors to enhance the visual of what is basically two people talking, yelling and pleading with each other for a hundred minutes. Slade uses basic "indie film" friendly two-shots for the conversations at the beginning. He then changes to a hazy slow motion for Jeff as he is being drugged and as he slowly unravels, while Haley's camera work becomes frantic and chopped as her plans to go exactly as she plans. He uses red as his main thematic color. Haley wears a red (indicating danger or stop) sweat shirt. Several of the rooms in Jeff house are also red, which the camera frequently pans and fades out on.
Given the age that Haley's character is, and of course the subject matter of an older man and young girl meeting, this can be an uncomfortable film to watch. And while the film is fictional, it is based on real-life events in Japan, in which a teen girl would meet an older guy on the internet, meet him for real and then assault him with her friends. However, if you can push yourself through this film, you'll find an amazing story that asks who is the predator and who is prey. It will leave each viewer with a slightly different take on what they just watched, and is ripe for discussion over coffee and pie.