After chatting to 32 year old photographer Jeff (Patrick Wilson) online via chatroom 14 year old Hayley (Ellen Page) arranges to meet him at a coffee shop. Their meeting quickly leads to them going back to his where Hayley sets about making them drinks. But to Jeff's surprise he ends up out cold and when he comes to he is bound to a chair with Hayley not only calling him a paedophile and suggesting that he might have been involved in the disappearance of a teenager but tells him that she is going to make sure he wont groom any more teenagers as she sets about torturing and tormenting him.
Let me first say I did not like David Slade's styling when it came "Hard Candy" it was just too commercial and by commercial I mean at times like one long advert. The scene where they drive from the coffee shop to Jeff's modern home has all the techniques you would see in an advert; the distance shots, the slow motion, the close ups of the smiling faces, heck I was tempted to go out and buy a mini after this scene. But it is throughout the movie, the close ups, the half obscured face, the shot off centre. I guess Slade studied film, read the books and put what he learned in this movie except it is visually annoying and for me distracts from the story.
As to the story well that is where "Hard Candy" gets interesting as the set up gives us a paedophile getting his comeuppance for grooming kids on the internet. And Patrick Wilson does a good job of playing him in such a way that from the word go we don't like him. He comes across as manipulative, creepish with no sense of what is appropriate when it comes to flirting with a 14 year old girl. Basically we don't like Jeff and even when he is being tormented and tortured we have no sympathy for him.
But then we have Hayley a 14 year old girl who not only is manipulative but seems to be enjoying torturing and tormenting Jeff more than she should. This makes her an uncomfortable character because you don't know whether her acts of justice are just that or whether she is a psycho who gets off on tormenting a guy; having power over him and making him suffer. It is uncomfortable viewing because here we have a 14 year old doing something normally left to grown ups in movies.
That leads me to Ellen Page who acts everyone off of the screen with a complete performance. The voice, the playful looks as she flirts with Jeff have a sense of naivety about them but when Jeff comes to after being drugged the change in to a little psycho is terrifying and it is everything; the stare, the arm movement and the free flowing way the lines come it is Ellen Page who makes "Hard Candy" more than just an unsettling movie.
What this all boils down to is that "Hard Candy" is interesting and unsettling but is almost ruined by what feels like a director making movie having been taught all the technical stuff you learn in film school. But it is the full on performance of Ellen Page which makes the movie, which commands your attention and really unsettles you.