Hard Candy 

(R) 4 Stars

Ed Johnson-Ott
(R) 4 Stars Ed Johnson-Ott Ellen Page in 'Hard Candy' Hard Candy is an edge of your seat thriller and I’m not kidding. I spent most of the movie leaning forward in my chair, focusing intensely on the nightmarish goings-on splayed across the big screen. The filmmakers had me where they wanted me: in the moment and under their spell. By the time the closing credits for their taut, nasty little production rolled, I was wrung out. If what I’ve written so far entices you, I suggest you stop reading until after you’ve seen the movie. Too often in this age of media overload, by the time we see a film we already know the story, the placement of any plot twists and what flavor gum the director chewed while shooting the finale. With Hard Candy, you have a chance to experience a thriller with almost no preconceptions. So, once more before I proceed, I suggest you stop reading this until after you’ve seen the movie. Bye. (crickets chirping) Welcome back! Presumably, you’ve returned from the theater after seeing Hard Candy and now you’re in the mood to compare notes. That’s how it was for me. I couldn’t wait to talk over this movie with someone else who saw it. From the conversations I had, it appears the film grabbed most people as effectively as it grabbed me. Granted, the screenplay has some credibility gaps — big ones — but you don’t think about those during the movie because, as I noted before, it keeps you in the moment. Later, when I sorted out the experience and realized just how far-fetched portions of the plot were, it just made me appreciate the skills of the filmmakers and the actors all the more. For those of you who want additional information before deciding whether or not to see the movie, and for those of you who are just reading this for the sport of it, here are the basics. After flirting online in an area designed for teens, two people meet at a coffee shop. She is Hayley (Ellen Page), a cute-as-a-button 14-year-old. He is Jeff (Patrick Wilson), a boyish 32-year-old fashion photographer. Uh-oh. Despite the age difference, they continue to flirt lightly as they chat. Creepy. Finally, they agree to go back to his place, so he can take some photos of her. Innocent photos. Is your skin crawling yet? Back at his home, Jeff mixes a drink for the two of them. Smiling all the while, Hayley makes reference to the potential dangers of a meeting like this, telling him that she was taught that you shouldn’t drink anything you didn’t make yourself. Keeping up the light, flirty banter, they agree that the safest move is for her to mix the drinks. A few minutes later, he passes out from whatever it was she slipped into his glass. He awakens to find himself strapped down, and Hayley explains that she knows who Jeff is and what he does. Moreover, she is determined that he will never do it again. Then she starts laying out the medical supplies she got from her father, the surgeon. Some will argue that Hard Candy is just a slickly done exploitation flick, a juiced-up revenge thriller. Others will argue that it makes a statement about female empowerment. But they won’t consider any notions about the production while watching the film, because it doesn’t let you. Credit for that goes to writer Brian Nelson and first feature director David Slade, and especially to actors Patrick Wilson and Ellen Page. He absolutely nails his role, adding nuance and never overplaying the character. And she is simply amazing. Page, who takes over the role of Kitty Pryde in the upcoming X-Men: The Last Stand, is utterly convincing, even as the story pushes the limits of credulity. Hard Candy works because it doesn’t worry about what you’ll say about it when you leave the theater. It just makes sure you’ll be exhausted when you do.

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