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Hard Candy Movie Analysis Essay

So I just saw this movie, Hard Candy. I got it because it stars a young actress from my hometown, Ellen Page. She’s been working a lot lately, and word on the street is that she’s pretty amazing, so I thought I’d better get in the know. And folks ain’t lyin’. She is awesome.

******************As usual, I give fair warning about plot spoilers. If you like surprises, stop reading now, but by all means, go rent the movie and come back and tell me what you think! Seriously, it’s worth seeing, and I know it wouldn’t have been as good if I had known all the plot twists and what have you beforehand. So stop reading if you haven’t seen it, rent it, and come back later.******************

So the movie’s basically about pedophilia, although not really in the way most would think. And it brought up a lot of issues for me. It’s been a somewhat controversial movie, aparently, because it turns the tables on a typical pedophilic situation. In it, the character played by Ellen Page, a 14 year old girl, basically lures in a pedophile (played quite well by Patrick Wilson, who I really think is quite a talented guy), takes him hostage, and tortures him.

So, issues. Well, there’s pedophilia itself. Technically, this guy is a hebophile, not a pedophile. Hebophiles are attracted to older children, young teenagers. It’s kind of under the general umbrella of pedophilia, so I’ll stick to that. On another thread, some of us have been talking about pedophiles, and child pornography. I’m not real sure how accurate this is, but I had a friend who worked at a sex offenders clinic, and the way she described pedophilia is that it’s basically a sexual preference, like heterosexuality. Pedophiles are sexually oriented toward children, like straight folks are oriented toward members of the opposite sex. The problem of course being that children cannot give consent to sexual contact, and so any sexual desire a pedophile acts on with a child is non-consensual rape. But it hit home with me how utterly untreatable pedophilia could be if this were true – and it certainly seems to be the current consensus that pedophilia is untreatable. It would be like telling a straight person to work really hard to just stop being attracted to the opposite sex, and become oriented to people of the same sex instead.

Patrick Wilson does such a good job of his role. He is handsome, charming, smooth, non-threatening. He does all he can to butter up Ellen Page’s character. I can see how someone like that would be very convincing, very flattering to a young insecure girl. He’s not at all a one-eyed scary monster. He looks like anybody else, successful, smart, charming. Normal on the outside. This is what’s so creepy and scary about pedophilia – pedophiles are everywhere. They look just like everyone else. But they’re not. They’re deviant sexual predators who will do and say anything to justify themselves and insinuate themselves into the lives of children in their communities, families, and beyond.

Some of the dialogue between the characters was really great. The pedophile has all the right lines, all the careful things to say to put attention away from the fact that he seeks out young girls to manipulate and exploit. Ellen Page’s character said something along the lines of, “just because a girl imitates a woman doesn’t mean she is mature enough to do what a woman does.” Which brings me to issue #2 – the hypersexualization of girl children in our society.

This doesn’t happen so much to boy children here, but it certainly does to girl children. Have you been into a girl’s clothing store recently? The kids clothing is getting more and more adult, more and more sexualized and provocative. I’m no prude, but I definitely see a problem with dressing little girls up like adult women might dress to go clubbing. Whose brilliant idea was this trend? Some pedophile, I bet. I read an article about this recently in MacLean’s magazine. Dressing our daughers like sluts, or something like that, was the title. And it’s true – we are. Why? Why on earth are parents allowing their daughters to dress in revealing, provocative clothing? God, it’s so weird. Don’t they know about the pedophiles? It’s on every TV news program all the time, about the child porn and the kids getting attacked. Like, wake the fuck up.

Issue #3: vigilantism. The girl spends several weeks talking to the guy online, meets up with him, lures him in, and takes the pedophile hostage, and tortures him emotionally and physically. She even makes to castrate him. Yup. The director spent a very long time on this particular part of the story – the lead up to the castration scene, the whole ordeal itself, what she does with the testicles once she cuts them out, his desperate pleas for her to spare him this act. Then we find out that she didn’t really do it after all, just made him think she had. What a relief, I’m sure many people watching would say to themselves! Thank god she didn’t cut off his balls – that would be going Too Far. This scene, it seems, is mainly what the controversy is about in regards to this movie. In the commentary I watched after the film, even the producer and director made comments that once filming began and the actors started the scene, they felt a lot of sympathy for the guy.

Issue #4: interesting how attached society is to men’s balls. And penises, of course – they’re everywhere you look, the ever-present phallus, incorporated into designs all over the place. This cultural attachment, surprisingly, extends to women a good deal of the time. So much so that many women report after attending self-defense classes that they found it really difficult to get past the old “never hit a guy in the balls” deal – even when the whole idea is to fend off a guy who’s about to rape them with those balls! Which is mind-boggling to me.

And issue #5 – my own reactions tot he movie. I was totally rooting for the girl, throughout the entire movie. I wanted her to get away with it all. I don’t advocate violence, or vigilantism, at all, but I had no sympathy for the pedophile whatsoever. Even while he was squirming and crying and begging for his balls to be spared, I couldn’t have cared less about him and his balls. My only worry with the movie was, “how will she ever get away with all this?”

Interesting movie, to say the least.  I highly recommend it.

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Posted in Controversial Commentary, Sheer Entertainment | 26 Comments

More sour than hard, this highfalutin exploitation flick starts with an unsavory premise -- possible pedophile meets the jailbait of his dreams -- that quickly becomes downright unpalatable. Working from an expository, intellectually clotted script by the playwright Brian Nelson, lingering in the shadows of Ariel Dorfman and Neil LaBute, among others, the director David Slade opens his first feature with his camera trained on a computer monitor. There, a teasing pas de deux is unfolding between two Internet chatters, Thonggrrrrrl14 and Lensman319. She's young (hence the 14), precocious (she namedrops Zadie Smith) and seemingly as eager as he is. They arrange to meet, silent alarms screaming.

From the chocolate smeared on her mouth and the rich color of her crimson sweatshirt, it initially looks as if Thonggrrrrrl14 is about to meet the big bad wolf in the person of her chat-room pickup, Jeff (Patrick Wilson), a photographer nearly two decades her senior. But this little red-hooded miss, a saucer-eyed pixie called Hayley Stark (Ellen Page), soon proves very wily, and more schooled by Lara Croft than Mother Goose. After hooking up at a cafe with the regrettable name of Nighthawks, Hayley insists on returning with Jeff to his home, whereupon she chugs vodka and go-go dances on the sofa before baring the kind of sharp teeth common only to wolves and psycho chicks born out of the murkiest recesses of the (usually male) imagination.

During the ensuing narrative unpleasantness and visual incoherence (meaningless choker close-ups, pointless slow motion), Hayley subjects Jeff to a range of torture, all in the name of, well, what? Despite the two fine performances, it's hard to say. Although she claims to want to right the wrongs of this alleged fiend, what Hayley says and does to her Internet Humbert Humbert firmly makes the case that this avenging angel is really the demon daughter of Valerie Solanas and Lorena Bobbitt, and consequently as reprehensible as her prey. Viewers who find torture entertaining, even in the age of Abu Ghraib, may find this watchable. Not so those of us who, like an acquaintance, get pretty bored with people in trapped-in-apartment movies having philosophical debates while fearing for their privates.

"Hard Candy" is rated R (Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian). It has sex and violence involving a teenager.

Hard Candy Opens today in New York and Los Angeles.

Directed by David Slade; written by Brian Nelson; director of photography, Jo Willems; edited by Art Jones; music by Molly Nyman and Harry Escott; production designer, Jeremy Reed; produced by Richard Hutton, Michael Caldwell and David W. Higgins; released by Lionsgate. At the Angelika Film Center, Mercer and Houston Streets, Greenwich Village. Running time: 99 minutes.

WITH: Patrick Wilson (Jeff Kohlver), Ellen Page (Hayley Stark), Sandra Oh (Judy Tokuda) and Odessa Rae (Janelle Rogers).

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