This stripped-down thriller with a cyber-twist has been doing far better as a rental than it did last year in the theatres. Ellen Page, whose past roles include Kitty Pryde in the most recent X-Men movie and Treena Lahey on Trailer Park Boys, gives a standout performance as a teenaged girl who enters dangerous territory.

Directed by David Slade
Written by Brian Nelson

Ellen Page as Hayley Stark
Patrick Wilson as Jeff Kohlver
Sandra Oh as Judy Tokuda

Available here and here.

Premise:

A teenaged girl arranges to meet a man she knows through the internet, and we’re reminded that people online may not be who they claim.

High Points:

The performances are excellent. Patrick Wilson plays his creepy character very well, and Ellen Page may one day rank among her generation’s great film actresses.

Low Point:

Hayley’s plan works too well, and is certainly too sophisticated for even a bright fourteen-year-old. This element remains problematic even though the ending implies that her character may be older.

The Scores:

Originality: 4/6. This battle of wills earns marks for originality through its use of the ‘Net and some unusual, if occasionally far-fetched, twists.

Effects: 3/6 The film has no traditional effects, though Hayley’s transformation could be considered a traditional effect of sorts, and the film handles the apparent castration effectively.

Story: 4/6. The film takes a scenario made familiar by actual headlines and internet rumors, and takes it in some unexpected directions. The final revelations, especially with reference to Kohlver, simplify unnecessarily the film’s moral debates.

Acting: 6/6. The film seems overlong, but I’m impressed that two actors (no one else gets more than a few minutes of screen time) could hold my attention. Page’s performance almost makes me overlook certain far-fetched aspects of her character, while Wilson’s compensates for absences in the writing of his.

Production: 5/6.

Emotional Response: 5/6. The film will disturb you, but you may also find yourself wearied by the end. It’s a long time to watch two people in one film location, and the film has its share of exploitation and filler. One scene, in particular, will be very hard for many people to watch.

Overall: 4/6. Hard Candy will leave you uncomfortable. Those used to the jolt-and-splatter-a-moment thrillers may find it disappointing, however.

In total, Hard Candy receives 31/42