Ellen Page, who is so adorable as the knocked up Juno, is slightly less adorable in Hard Candy. Oh, she starts out that way, innocently playing tag with an older man in a chat room, looking as sweet as the chocolate on her bottom lip after she bites into a pastry, but once she has the upper hand in the hook up, she does a scary 180.
Jeff Kohlver (Patrick Wilson) is a 32-year-old successful photographer. He meets 14-year-old Hayley Stark (Ellen Page) online and arranges a meeting at a coffee shop. The flirting that started online continues when they meet, as Lensman319 wipes the chocolate off Thonggrrrrl14’s mouth and licks his finger. He buys her a T-shirt and she suggestively models it for him in the hallway of the coffee shop, and the tension is palpable as the predator toys with his prey.
At his comfortable home in the hills, Jeff is still playing it legal, reminding Hayley that she's underage, and while not plying her with alcohol, he's not exactly stopping her either. But soon it is Jeff who is feeling dizzy and out of control. He wakes to find himself tied to a chair and a sober and angry Hayley waiting for him to focus so she can begin an afternoon of psychological torture on a man she knows partook in the kidnapping, rape, and murder of a local missing teen named Donna.
What happens to Lensman319 in the following hours is enough to make me feel sorry for a pedophile for the first time in my life. Hayley is not only angry and vengeful, but it becomes obvious she is quite unhinged. This is never so obvious as when she starts talking about performing some "preventive maintenance" on Jeff so he won’t have to deal with those pesky urges for underage girls ever again. The way she sees it, she's only doing him a favor. And although she has never carried out this particular medical procedure, she has her dad's medical book in her bookbag, just in case. (I think of this scene every time I flip the switch on my garbage disposal.)
Is Hard Candy a plausible movie? Could a petite, young girl overpower an older, fit man and break his will so totally that he sees only one desperate way out of his predicament? I don't think it matters. A critic is quoted on the DVD case as saying this movie is “Fatal Attraction for a new generation.” In other words, like that 1987 movie that had married men scared to so much as glance at another woman, this is a cautionary tale that reminds us all that every cause has an effect, every action a reaction, and every illegal rendezvous an innocent victim.