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June 05, 2006 - Image 10

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Publication:
Michigan Daily Summer Weekly, 2006-06-05

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10 - The Michigan Daily - Monday, June 5, 2006
New director's work
is hard to swallow

By Jeffrey Bloomer
Managing Editor
"Hard Candy" might be one of the most
self-destructive films ever made, and happily
so. Here is a movie that refuses to establish
a cohesive set of events,
proudly develops its char-
acters disingenuously, Hard Candy
depends on contempo- At the
rary social anxieties to be Michigan Theater
effective only to scold the LionssGate
audience for buying into
them, has a screenplay
that uncomfortably cracks a joke whenever it
evokes any real dramatic tension - and to
what end? The height of the climax is filmed
from a distance, but why? Because it looks
pretty against the sunset?
The story concerns a 14-year-old girl
(Ellen Page, seen last week walking through
walls in "X-Men: The Last Stand") who gets
lunch with a 32-year-old photographer (Pat-
rick Wilson, "Phantom of the Opera") in
a cafd after meeting him in an online chat
room. The girl, Hayley, has a teasing wit
about her, and the man, Jeff, has the puppy-
dog thing about him, and so they seem to hit
it off. When they go back to his apartment,

he offers her a screwdriver, but she refuses
- she can't take a drink unless she sees it
poured, she says. Good advice, it turns out,
because after she pours the next round at his
request, he wakes up to find himself tied to
an office chair in his own apartment with an
incisive vixen ready to go to work.
At first, he thinks it's about sex. Of course
he does. But it turns out that Hayley, who sells
herself as a tomboy with an affinity for Zadie
Smith and indie rock, is well informed. She
knows he's a sexual predator, has been cas-
ing his neighbors and appears to have a knack
for medical procedures (uh oh). At first, Jeff
laughs her off, but not long into their one-on-
one, he's already offering to turn himself in.
"Not good enough," she says. "Didn't Roman
Polanski just win an Oscar?" Yes, yes he did,
and right about then, our suspicion that the
dear 14-year-old's mind has been infiltrated
by a Hollywood screenwriter becomes more
than a passing whim.
From there, back stories are revealed in
obligatory fashion, and the story spirals into
who-knows-where. First-time feature director
David Slade clearly has a vision for the mate-
rial, but it's unclear if he understands what's
going on any better than we do. His style, as
it were, is incongruously self-conscious, with
furious, shifty editing and claustrophobic

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"Well that's the last time I go on the Internet."
most suffocating.
Even if Slade found a happy medium,
the narrative foundation of 11-o'clock-news
paranoia is never rooted in any real drama.
There's a bizarre (if not outwardly exploit-
ative) allure to the couple's flip-flopped
exchanges in the early scenes, but with the
premise being rewritten every 20 minutes,
it's hard to see the point.

confidence befitting a seasoned performer,
and Wilson does the dude-in-distress act as
well as can be expected. Slade, on the other
hand, has to go back to the drawing board.
There's not a single shot where something
doesn't go wrong; his film is provocative
but singularly backward-minded. It's hard to
imagine another filmmaker with this much
obvious skill and yet such cheerful eagerness

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