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"Hard Candy"

Directed by David Slade.
Written by Brian Nelson.
Starring Patrick Wilson, Ellen Page, and Sandra Oh.
Release Year:  2005
Review Date:  5/4/06


It's hard to talk about the thriller "Hard Candy" without giving away its story line, so here it is:  A 30-something photographer named Jeff (Patrick Wilson) arranges by instant messaging technology to meet for coffee with Hayley (Ellen Page), who appears to be a 14-year-old innocent out looking to meet, ahem, new people.  After coffee, Jeff offers to show Hayley his portfolio at his home...where Hayley and Jeff take their three-week old online-only relationship to another level in person...especially after we find out that Jeff may or may not have a past as a pedophile.

"Hard Candy", rated R for some of the most man-tense moments ever filmed, is gripping but strangely irritating.  It's gripping for reasons that become obvious only after you start watching the movie, as well as the (initially) provocative performance by Page.  But, once we move past the 30-minute mark and really get into the meat of what Jeff has really signed up for, I was amazed at how angry I was watching Page perform her judge, jury and executioner role because everything that the Jeff character is guilty of is just hinted at, never backed up.  This is true all the way to the film's harrowing conclusion.  Some of this anger was due to the script by Brian Nelson, which has dialogue that seems WAY too cute for a girl that is handling the kind of activities that Hayley is dealing with in the film's main high tension moment.

The performances by Wilson and Page are both very strong, and for a movie that only has literally four speaking parts (Sandra Oh, from "Sideways", has a cameo near the film's conclusion), watching Wilson and Page for 90% of the movie is never dull and has a nice cat-and-mouse aesthetic to it; how will Jeff resolve his situation?  Who is this Hayley anyway?  What the hell is up her ass?  When the two are going after each other, who will win?  The film is also very well photographed; I think that director David Slade is a music video director, and the way he stages his scenes made me feel right at home.

But my interest in the movie kept going back to the Hayley character, and because of her decision-making and the ridiculosity of her dialogue and situation (yes, I just made a word up), "Hard Candy" fell back to earth for me.  I still think you should check this out just to squirm uncomfortably for 90 minutes and get out of your comfort zone.

Rating:  Matinee


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Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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The "fine print":
All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/ except where noted
1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09