While Mr. Mouse was out being macho and riding hundreds of miles on his bicycle (okay, just one hundred miles, in the Maine Lighthouse Century Ride - but that's still macho), I was walking the dog, doing laundry and watching the most terrifying movie I've seen in a really, really long time: Hard Candy.
A handsome, charming, 32 year-old professional photographer chats up a fourteen-year old girl online, arranging a meeting at a coffee shop. When they meet, Jeff is instantly (and creepily) taken with the urbane-for-her-years Hayley. She goes home with him, prattling disarmingly on about his photography, until she drugs him, ties him up and commences with the psychological torture. I'm going to take a stand and not describe any more of the plot because I'm chicken and don't want to use the words that are necessary to give a full description (like "p***phile" and "k*dd*e p*rn" - which will get me on all the wrong interweb searches); rest assured that you never actually see anything but it is horrific all the same. And, there's one protracted scene that will guaran-goddamn-tee significant shrinkage and cringing from any male watching this film.
This is an incredible indie film, gorgeous in its execution with fantastic use of color (when Hayley gets angry, all the bright shades bleed away) and cinematography (wide screen format with so many close ups when done correctly is just awesome). But it is the acting that knocks this little movie out of the ballpark. Ellen Page was just eighteen when she made this film, and she and co-star Patrick Wilson are the only ones on the screen for 99% of the time. Ellen as Hayley is alternately cheer-inspiring and terrifying in her vigilantism, and her wise and wounded naif is able to break your heart at the same time as she's busting his balls (so to speak). And Patrick Wilson brings incredible humanity to a very bad and twisted character; I resent the fact that the writing and his acting made me feel some sympathy for a p***phile. He could have played Jeff as a monster but instead made him a man.
Uncomfortable, provocative, suspenseful and manipulative, Hard Candy is not a movie for those people who like to snuggle down into the couch with a big bowl of popcorn. It is a movie, however, for people who want a little more tooth in their entertainment. This Candy has a bite for sure.
Edit: Three hours later and I'm still thinking about this film. Both these characters are such sick people: him with his sexual predation and twisted proclivities; and her clearly disturbed to enact such excruciatingly planned vengeance. I am marvelling at the script's and the actors' abilities to make me alternately connect to and recoil from each of them.
9 hours ago