Hard Candy (2005)

(Netflix Streaming, June 2015)  It’s an unconventional compliment to say that a film is intensely uncomfortable to watch, but then again Hard Candy is the kind of unconventional film that covets this reaction.  A thriller almost taking place in a single location between two characters, Hard Candy pairs off a creepy photographer who may or may not have something to do with the death of a young girl, and a teenage vigilante with psychological terror on her mind.  Castration is involved, so male viewers will spend much of the film with their legs crossed.  A curious (and frustrating) lack of wide shots reinforces the hermetic claustrophobia of the film, which often feels like an intense ping-pong match between skilled players.  Patrick Wilson makes a mark as the creepy photographer (fortunately, he has since had enough roles to avoid typecasting), but it’s Ellen Paige who earns almost all of the attention (despite a few too-showy moments) as a driven teenage avenger.  Hard Candy is very effective and successful at meeting its goals, but viewers may be forgiven for thinking that the film is a bit too long, and finding out that there’s not really any character to feel sympathy for.  Combined with the unsettling cinematography, Hard Candy thus remains a bit distant –which may not be a bad thing given the intensity of its thrills. 

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