On Saturday I saw "Hard Candy," a truly bizarre independent film that stars a young actress with a fairly long resume with almost nothing I've ever seen. (Mostly Canadian tv, it appears, though she will be in the next X-Men movie, not that I'm likely to see that, either.) It's basically a two character film - the fourteen year old girl played by Ellen Page, and a thirty-something photographer who she meets in an internet chat room, and then, in person.
Side note: Why is it in movies and tv, the people you meet in internet chat rooms always live in your town? How realistic is that? Even if you live in a major city, what is the likelihood of being able to tell someone, "Let me take a shower and ask my sister for a ride, and I'll see you in an hour?"
Anyway, although something about this film feels like a small town, (a coffee shop everyone knows, one local mystery that seems prevalent, a suburban mom selling girl scout cookies), but I think it's LA or a suburb of LA. This doesn't really matter, of course, I'm just circling around the center of the film. Why?
I saw it on a beautiful Saturday and the theater was fairly empty, but enough to exhibit audible and strong reactions as the movie progressed. It's fairly disturbing, although not in a visually graphic way (you see absolutely nothing, not even a single sultry teenage girl photo.) It begins as you would expect with the key ingredients of older man/photographer, internet chat room, precocious young teenage girl, visit to his house after a flirtatious morning meeting of lattes and chocolate. And then it turns completely upside down, and for the rest of the film you're questioning who is the victim in this scenario, and who has your sympathy. That's about all I'll say, except prepare to be unprepared. There are some incredibly grotesque moments, even without much to see, but the power is in the language and the wonderful acting, especially by Ellen Page.
Sandra Oh turns up as a somewhat-meddling neighbor, oddly, which could make you question the way the film ends, although I'm not sure if we're supposed to think she later manages to affect how this plays out. It's somewhat of an open question, which isn't a bad thing, and I have to fight my instinct to have the filmmaker spoonfeed me a hint by showing us where she was during the last crucial scene (a witness? or far, far away?)
Trying to talk about this film without giving it away is difficult. But I'd read reviews and knew the direction it would take, and it still was surprising, because you just can't imagine how far it goes. (Two women in the ladies room after were comparing stories of how absolutely shocked they were, having figured it was your typical big bad man seduces innocent young girl film.)