F.I.L.M. of the Week (August 6, 2010)

6 08 2010

I’ve thought of three great comparisons for “Hard Candy,” the “F.I.L.M. of the Week” (First-Class, Independent Little-Known Movie, for those who need a refresher on the acronym), and I just had to include them in my post. I think they make a great lead. Imagine me clearing my throat, and then I say to you…

“Hard Candy” is “Misery” for the digital age. It’s Michael Haeneke’s “Funny Games,” pedophile edition!  And it’s “Paranormal Activity” without the ghosts!

I’m sure I probably have you more confused than anything right now, so allow me to explain.

The first scene, an internet chat, sets up our assumptions about the two characters.  Hayley (Ellen Page) is a 14-year-old girl who allows herself to be wooed by Jeff (Patrick Wilson), a much older photographer, presumably a pedophile from the way they speak to each other. When they arrange to meet for the first time at a coffee shop, we have roles assigned for them in our heads: Jeff the hunter and Hayley the victim.

But the movie quickly shows us that we have these roles mixed up once they return to his house.  As if in one of those crazy games where the deer shoot the rednecks, Hayley tortures Jeff in his own dwelling, punishing him for crimes that she isn’t certain he has committed.  But as the server of preemptive justice, she has little care for following the rules, and her innocence fades quickly as her games become more cruel and sadistic with each passing minute.

This isn’t a movie for the faint at heart and certainly not for those who want to think of Ellen Page as a good-hearted, spunky teenager.  Director David Slade makes a gripping movie by making all the events compellingly realistic, choosing to craft a very eerie natural tension by relying on the actors to really communicate the emotions.  In an era where the average movie changes shots every two seconds, Slade opts for several haunting long shots.  There’s a particular one of Patrick Wilson that last several minutes which will surely sear into your memory forever.