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MSRP:  $27.98
RUNNING TIME:  105 Minutes
• Commentary with writer Brian Nelson and Director David Slade
• Commentary with actors Patrick Wilson and Ellen Page
• Deleted and Extended Scenes
• “Creating Hard Candy” Making of Doc
• “Controversial Confection” Featurette

The Pitch

So I sat here for a good 4 minutes and I can’t think of a clever little quip for this section.  I’ll just say I don’t remember having seen anything like it before.

The Humans

Patrick (Little Children) Wilson, Ellen (X-Men 3) Page

The Nutshell

A sleazy internet predator gets a little more than he bargained for with his latest teenage conquest.

The Lowdown

I’ll admit – I’m a little embarrassed.  I got this DVD to review quite a bit ago and it sat, unloved, on my shelf for a little too long (sorry about that, Nick).  But when I think about it, I’m almost a little glad this review is coming in behind the times, as I figure that anyone who had any interest in seeing this movie has already seen it, freeing me up to discuss it openly, without fear of spoiling it.

Oh what a relief it is!
Even though he knew she’d smell it and know it was him, he just couldn’t hold it any longer.

So, it kinda goes without saying that this review will be spoiler-heavy and if, by chance, you haven’t seen the film, please do so before reading any further.  Devin was absolutely right when he said that the less you know about this film going in, the better.  As for the rest of you…

Since I’m writing this review for people who have already seen the film, I’m not going to go into any sort of exposition.  We all know what happens – but what really makes this film such a standout is how it happens – well, how it’s presented, anyway.  In the hands of a lot of other filmmakers or studios (Jesus – imagine if this had been a Lifetime movie), this would have been the most ham-handed, cheesy piece of pap since the “I learned it from watching you!“ PSA.  Instead, what we have is a movie that isn’t afraid to do two important things:  tackle a severely taboo subject and tackle it with complete honesty, interjecting something into the narrative that is usually unheard of in a film like this:  moral ambiguity.

When we’re first introduced to Jeff and Hayley at the coffee shop, Jeff is clearly the bad guy – especially after the instant message exchange we’re presented with in the opening sequence.  We know what Jeff’s up to and we despise him, even moreso after he sweet talks a fawning Hayley into going back to his apartment.  As the liquor flows and we get a little peek into more of Jeff’s personal hobbies, our discomfort grows and grows, knowing, but not wanting to know, what’s about to happen.  And what’s so unusual about this is that there is no concerted effort on the filmmakers’ part to vilify Jeff.  He’s not painted with the usual moustache-twirling tendencies of the cinematic bad guy – he’s just…presented, and we make the conclusions on our own.  Which is fine, until the big switch.

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And as we watch the power dynamics change, we also watch Jeff take on a victim role.  I wish I was a better writer, because it’s so hard for me to describe the sort of coherent confusion that comes from taking such a despicable person and actually making us, as an audience, feel sorry for him.  I’ve seen Devin make comments on the boards about people’s knee-jerk reaction to pedophiles and I’ve seen people get extremely aggressive and up-at-arms at those comments – but in reading the threads about his film on those same boards, it seems like those same people were the ones actually rooting for Jeff.  Cheering for him.  He’s become a sort of hero.  That’s fascinating to me, especially given that those feelings aren‘t necessarily unwarranted.  And it’s not bad enough that he’s a pedophile – he could possibly be a child murderer.  The sort of narrative skill it takes to make an audience side with such a person is phenomenal.  Of course a lot of credit for that needs to be given to Patrick Wilson – he plays Jeff with a sort of twisted sensitivity, being completely sleazy in the coffee shop, but being completely vulnerable and sympathetic while tied to his chair.  It’s a testament to the filmmakers who wrote Jeff with that sort of ambiguity, but the subtlety that Wilson brings to both sides of the role is definitely what makes it work.

And that’s not even taking into account what we’re presented with within Hayley.  She walks a fine line with her character – she’s given very complicated, adult tasks to carry out, but the way Page plays the role with a sort of innocent passion makes it completely believable.  Fourteen is an awkward age because you start to get a very real picture of the world, but you’re still a little too naïve to process it all rationally and Page brings every ounce of that into Hayley.  Regardless of what the subject is, there’s always a grey area, no matter how smal it is.  But the way Hayley presents her case in complete black and white is a nice double-edged sword for her character.  The things she says are things that are true and need to be said, but the punctuated judgement without any sort of analysis is what keeps her young and keeps us from seeing Hayley as a conniving seductress.  At the end of the day, she’s just a kid and the way they keep her character at that level in the midst of this unbelievably adult scenario is a master-stroke on both Page and the filmakers’ parts.

It's a curse...
With the onset of the full moon, Bill knew what had to be done.  It was hell being a WereGrimace.

In regards to the story progression, a lot of people cite the castration as the big set piece of the film, but, honestly, for some reason I feel like that’s the first place any 14-year-old in Haley’s situation would go.  Granted, it was definitely a squirmy situation, but I didn’t really find myself at odds with my position on Jeff until we get to the rooftop.  The ultimatum Hayley offers up is the ultimate cap on a completely breathless film – her incessant, panicked promises and Jeff’s complete desperation are almost painful to watch.  I don’t think the film could have ended any other way, but I don’t know if anyone who watched the movie rationally walked out of that theater feeling like they had just witnessed a happy ending.

In the end, Hard Candy is one of those rare films that defies classification.  It doesn’t fit into any sort of genre and it doesn’t have any sort of underlying message.  It’s completely free to interpretation and, given that freedom in relation to the subject matter, it’s – in my opinion – one of the bravest films ever made and I absolutely adore it.

The Package

The standard amaray case features the bear-trap image that we’re all familiar with.  I like it – it’s iconic and to those who know the film it’s a great representation of what’s inside, but to those that don’t, it’s an equally great representation of what they’d expect without giving away any surprises.  There was a poster floating around, designed around the whole vertical blind concept which was, well, kinda ugly.  I’m really glad they didn’t go with that.

Bad choices
When Jill demonstrated her design for the flight harness, Mr. Herver started to rethink his desicion to let the class completely control their production of Peter Pan.

In regards to features, this doesn’t necessarily qualify as a “stacked” disc, but what’s here is definitely worth watching.  The two documentaries aren’t the typical EPK stuff you’ll find on a lot of newer releases, but rather very comprehensive tellings of the Hard Candy story, starting at the concept phase and following every step up until the release and reactions.  Very compelling stuff.  I don’t really get why they’re split up into separately viewable segments, but there is a Play All function, so I’m not too concerned about it.

There are also a couple of commentaries.  The first one is with the writer and director and follows the “film school” formula, talking about techniques and processes and such while the second is with Ellen Page and Patrick Wilson, which, as expected, goes the “set anecdote“ route.  The curious thing about Wilson and Page’s commentary is that they start off seemingly uncomfortable with each other.  As it goes it gets a little looser, but I did find it odd that two people who went through something like this together would be that ill at ease with one another.

Rounding out the Special Features Menu are some LGF trailers and a few deleted/extended scenes that aren’t particularly interesting and, aside from a sense of completion, don’t really seem all that necessary to add.

But that’s not even a small gripe as this is definitely a must-own disc.  Definitely.


OVERALL 9.0 out of 10