|Directed by||David Slade|
|Produced by||Rosanne Korenberg|
|Written by||Brian Nelson|
April 14, 2006 (United States)
The film, an independent production, was directed by David Slade, written by Brian Nelson, and stars Patrick Wilson and Ellen Page. It was the first feature film for Slade, who previously had worked mostly in music videos.
The film opens with a flirtatious online chat between 14-year old Hayley Stark (Ellen Page) and 32-year old photographer Jeff Kohlver (Patrick Wilson) who agree to meet for the first time at a café. After further flirtation, Hayley suggests they return to Jeff's house. Once there, Hayley makes them both screwdrivers after telling Jeff that she would not drink something that she did not mix herself. Hayley, who appears slightly intoxicated, suggests that Jeff take some photographs of her, similar to the ones of young girls displayed on the walls of his home. As Hayley dances and poses, Jeff begins to feel disoriented and eventually passes out.
Jeff wakes up tied to a wheeled computer chair. Hayley explains that she drugged him and has also been tracking him, knowing he is a pedophile. Jeff denies the allegations, saying he had innocent intentions. Hayley frantically searches the house, eventually finding a hidden safe in his rock garden containing a photo of Donna Mauer, a local girl who had been kidnapped and remains missing. Jeff denies involvement in Mauer's disappearance and tries to escape. Hayley asphyxiates him with plastic wrap until he is unconscious.
Jeff once again wakes, this time tied to a steel table with a bag of ice on his genitals. Hayley once again confronts him about Donna Mauer, informing Jeff that she is going to castrate him. After a long conversation, she begins composing an e-mail to Janelle, his ex-girlfriend. Jeff attempts to dissuade her with threats, negotiation, and a long plea for sympathy based on a story of childhood abuse, but Hayley proceeds with the operation. Following its conclusion, she steps out of the room claiming to leave to take a shower. Jeff breaks free and realizes she has faked the castration. Scalpel in hand, he follows Hayley to the bathroom, only to find that the shower is empty and he has walked into a trap; Hayley knocks him unconscious once again, this time with a stun gun.
Jeff awakens once more, this time standing on a chair, his hands bound, with a noose around his neck. Hayley reveals that she has written a fake suicide note on his behalf and she makes Jeff an offer. He can commit suicide, and Haley will erase the evidence of his crimes. If he refuses to kill himself, Hayley will knock the chair out from under him and fully expose his secrets. Their conversation is interrupted when a neighbor (Sandra Oh) knocks on the door. Hayley answers and convinces the neighbor that she is Jeff's niece who is staying for the weekend. When the neighbor asks her basic questions, Hayley stammers and gives unconvincing lies. When Hayley returns, Jeff breaks free from the noose and pursues her to the roof - where she has brought the noose and holds him off with the gun. Hayley reveals that she has contacted Janelle, who is driving to the house as they speak. She offers him the choice of committing suicide or she will pull off her own clothes and run into Janelle's arms, crying and screaming.
Jeff finally confesses that he was involved in Donna Mauer's death, but that he only watched while his accomplice committed the murder. He promises that, if she spares his life, he will disclose the other man's name and help her find him. Hayley reveals that "Aaron," the man Jeff claims killed Mauer, told her the same thing before killing himself. Janelle arrives and Hayley urges Jeff to kill himself to avoid prosecution and prison where he will be preyed upon. She reminds him that her offer is still on the table. Jeff, defeated, lets Hayley slide the noose around his neck with no resistance. He takes the deadly step off the roof with Hayley promising "I'll take care of it all...". Hayley looks over the side of the house, observing Jeff, and simply states: "...or not." She gathers her belongings and escapes through the woods at the rear of the house. She looks back, then continues on her way home.
- Patrick Wilson as Jeff Kohlver
- Ellen Page as Hayley Stark
- Sandra Oh as Judy Tokuda
- Odessa Rae (born as Jennifer Holmes) as Janelle Rogers
Due to the controversial nature of the work, the budget was kept under a million dollars so that the production company would not ask to change anything. Sandra Oh agreed to do the film due to her desire to work with fellow Canadian actress Page, with whom she had appeared in Wilby Wonderful, although not in the same scenes in that film.
Very little dubbing was used in the film, with only a couple of lines modified in post-production. Only nine minutes of music are present in the film, with ambient sounds, such as heavy breathing, making up most of the soundtrack. The film was shot in eighteen and a half days, largely in sequence, and mostly on a soundstage.
The American DVD was released on September 19, 2006 with two commentary tracks, an hour's worth of making-of featurettes, six deleted and extended scenes, the script and director's notebook, and trailers for Hard Candy and other Lionsgate films. The blu-ray release by Lionsgate Home Entertainment was scheduled for October 5, 2010.
The film critics aggregate website Rotten Tomatoes gave a 68% positive rating based on 127 reviews. Caroline Westbrook at Empire Magazine called it "[a] cracking little thriller". David Edwards at the Daily Mirror praised it as a "smart, challenging and timely look at the world of [I]nternet grooming". Todd McCarthy at Variety praised the "spectacular performance by teenage thesp Ellen Page".
Critics applauded Page's performance; USA Today praised her for "remaining consistently convincing" to her role which is both "powerful and chilling." She won the Best Actress award from the Austin Film Critics Association. The New York Times film critic Manohla Dargis recognized the film's debt to "Ariel Dorfman and Neil LaBute, among others", but did not care for the torture theme "in the age of Abu Ghraib".
The film won three awards at the Sitges Film Festival, 2005: Slade won the Audience award for Best Feature Film and the Best Film award, and Brian Nelson, the writer, won the award for Best Screenplay.
The German Neue Deutsche Härte band Oomph! based the video for their song "Beim ersten Mal tut's immer weh" on this movie, as did American metalcore band Beneath the Sky for their song "Terror Starts at Home".
Notes and references
- "Making Hard Candy," DVD featurette
- "Hard Candy". Box Office Mojo. http://www.boxofficemojo.com/movies/?id=hardcandy.htm. Retrieved 2007-10-20.
- While written as "Jeff" in the film credits and early script, most revisions of the script spell it as "Geoff". An example can be seen in the DVD featurette "Making Hard Candy", at about 35 minutes.
- Fall Frights: HARD CANDY (Film Review)
- "Sandra Oh News.: On Ellen Page". http://sandraoh.blogspot.com/2007/12/on-ellen-page.html.
- Lionsgate Drops a Massive Load of Horror Blu-rays in October - Blair Witch and More!
- "Ellen: Manipulates 'Hard Candy' to great effect" by Claudia Puig, USA Today, December 22, 2006 section E2
- "www.austinfilmcritics.com". http://www.austinfilmcritics.com/past.html#Award06Sum.
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- Hard Candy at Rotten Tomatoes
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- In 'Hard Candy,' an Internet Lolita Is Not as Innocent as She Looks, Manohla Dargis, April 14, 2006, New York Times.
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