HARD CANDY is a tasty, tantalizing treat that's so hard to swallow you'll find yourself wailing two octaves higher than Andy Devine during a bikini wax.
Let me try and explain...
To set the record straight, there's a lot to like about HARD CANDY (the title refers to the internet slang word for an under-aged girl). In fact, the underlying story was inspired by actual events in Japan where schoolgirls have banded together to ambush predatory men. It's an intriguing premise to say the least, and the first two-thirds of this low budget film is damn near a masterpiece. Reportedly shot in eighteen days for less than one million dollars, HARD CANDY sets itself up to be a cinematic classic.
Ellen Page (X-MEN: THE LAST STAND) plays fourteen year old Hayley Stark, a bright young lass who surfs the web and agrees to meet a much older internet pen pal at a local diner. Patrick Wilson (William Travis in THE ALAMO, RUNNING WITH SCISSORS) portrays thirty-two year old Jeff Kohlver, a successful, but lonely photographer. As the film progresses we are given conflicting information on whether or not Jeff is a pedophile. We also must question whether or not Hayley is pathologically insane. She's no Hayley Mills, that much is certain.
Both actors are absolutely outstanding. In fact, I cannot think of any other young actress who could convincingly pull off the frequently stilted dialogue penned by Screenwriter Brian Nelson. (Here's a classic example of an adult male not knowing how to write for a teenage girl). In any event, Ellen Page is both brilliant and mesmerizing; we can expect to see much more of this budding Canadian actress in the future.
So far, so good...
Unfortunately, the final act becomes so maddingly unbelievable and disappointing it defies description, although it does answer the question, "What is less satisfying than a fake orgasm?"
In the case of HARD CANDY the answer is, "A fake castration."
Brian Nelson and Director David Slade inexplicably opt for a POLLYANNA ending that might even gag Ms. Mills. In simplest terms, these guys lost their cojones. Instead of an uncompromising, unforgettable conclusion we get Little Red Riding Hood walking off into the sunset. And what about Jeff? Well, he's left hanging; the same is true for the audience.
If only Roman Polanski had directed...