Hard Candy. Very hard.

The other night we watched Hard Candy, a movie that somehow ended up in our NetFlix queue. I don’t even think I’d heard of it before, and didn’t really know what it was about.

Wow.

Warning: There may be spoilers below, so stop reading if it means anything to you.

Of course, this movie was made 5 years ago, so “spoiler” is a bit strong.

The topic and plot are tough to deal with. Uncomfortable, icky things. “Icky” being sick, disgusting, evil things. Pedophilia, hidden in an otherwise normal (and charming) person.

There are a couple things about the movie that stick with me. One is Ellen Page. She was only 17 years old when she did this film. I think back to what I was like as a 17-year-old actor, or even other 17-year-old actors I’ve known who were better 17-year-old actors than I was, and her performance is mind blowing. It’s subtle, complex and compelling. She was playing a 14-year-old character, and I read that at one point during production someone suggested the character admit late in the story that she’s actually 18, but Page urged them to not do that as it weakened the whole edge of the movie and the character. They dropped the idea.

Remember Leonardo DiCaprio in Gilbert Grape? This is her Grape. But, of course, everyone saw Juno first.

The second thing is the tightrope walk of presenting the other main character, played wonderfully by Patrick Wilson. Is he evil? Is he creepy? Do we hate him? Yes, yes, yes. But there’s a good 30-minute section of the film where (spoiler!) he’s tied to a table with his pants down and pleads for her to not castrate him. Literally. It’s an excruciating scene. At least for any male watching it, it has to be excruciating. And so while we’re despising this man for what he’s being accused of, for what we assume from the beginning that he’s done, we’re also watching him being terrorized, tortured and…cut. So now, he’s a sympathetic character.

I, of course, love characters like this…. people who have done horrible things, and yet sympathetic. It’s a thin line that’s difficult to successfully follow, that space between guilty and only questionable and that truth that even killers and rapists have a soft quiet spot and human-ness somewhere within.

It’s certainly stuck with me. It makes me want to see more by director David Slade, and both these actors.

The castration scene…is still making me squirm.

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