Having recently re-watched Hard Candy, I thought I’d start up my blog again. This is a movie that really does make you question your ethics, and such a movie is always one that deserves a re-watch.The two characters, a pretty crafty 14 year old girl (Hayley), and a man 18 years her senior (Jeff), have developed an online relationship over two or three weeks. This particular online relationship has unsettlingly inappropriate sexual undertones. Jeff is a wily photographer who likes to prey on teenage girls in chatrooms, and who quickly Googles names of the bands they mention to disguise himself as the coolest guy they’ve ever spoken to – of course he knows all about Goldfrapp.
Their initial meeting in a public café simmers with playful intensity, and leads to the pair hopping in his Mini and driving back to his house. Clever Hayley declines an alcoholic drink he’s prepared, reciting the dangers of accepting drinks that you haven’t seen being poured. She makes some Screw Drivers with a special touch, and Jeff ends up woozily slumping unconscious. What unfolds throughout the rest of the film involves the paedophile being tied up, a few sharp instruments and quite a lot of psychological torture. Safe to say, Jeff ends up regretting that he messed with the wrong 14 year old.
As the artistically articulated action unfolds, with a great use of colours and a very real, surgical and tinny feel, the war of ethics unfolds too. Who’s the real predator? Who’s the truly guilty one? The young girl who’s getting such pleasure out of inflicting painful humiliation, or the 32 year old who has groomed her? Sadomasochism usually results in a one-sided argument, but I did end up questioning whether she was taking it one step too far. Why not just turn him in to the police? Because that really would not be as fun as the school science project-like scenario of castration. I was switching sides as I watched it, and I actually ran the risk of over-looking the fact that Jeff is, after all, an experienced paedophile.
Isn’t that cinematic beauty in itself? Causing you to feel things you didn’t think you could feel, develop opinions about matters you thought you had sussed out, and allow the very principles of your human nature to be taken on a rollercoaster.
Maybe it doesn’t get as gruesome as we initially thought it might. But the climactic ending does come, and it comes with a punchy twist.
I posed the question “who’s the truly guilty one?” … Maybe it’s not Jeff, not Hayley, but us. Us, the eagerly anticipating viewers, waiting with baited breath for a grisly finale from the safety of our sofas.