I had wanted to vent my feelings about this particularly annoying movie subcategory for a while now, but never got around to it. However, after watching Hard Candy a few nights ago, I’ve had it. Enough is enough.
I group this one together with a number of other movies, some highly successful, some less known, which all have the glorification of vengeance in common. In an irritatingly simplistic and formulaic manner, we have the equivalent of a poor victim on the one hand, the equivalent of an evil monster on the other, and then we have the avenging angel, the vigilante, who takes justice in their own hands to set things right. Moral: one is justified to kill people because one has unfailing and conclusive knowledge of every pertinent fact. The perpetrator’s guilt leaves no doubt, so he/she/they deserve to die.
V for Vendetta and Inglorious Basterds fall into this category, and it is interesting that both rank within the top 250 movies at IMDB. Both won numerous awards, including an Oscar. Both follow a one-dimensional cops-and-robbers formula, just like classic American westerns. Both have a plot line that defies simple logic and insults half-ways intelligent viewers. Both manipulate their audience into accepting that the end justifies the means; that violence, brutality, and vicious cruelty are fine as long as it’s used by the “good” guys to punish the “bad”.
Hard Candy is by far the worst of this category, in my view. It has the additional twist that a pedophile in his thirties comes across as way more sympathetic than his 14-year-old “victim” who is a perverted sadist herself. The girl displays a clever cunning and almost super-human strength that seem utterly implausible given the fact that she’s only 14, but we have to accept it because she declares several times that she’s an honor student. So, we feel sorry for her poor helpless victim whom she cruelly tortures and who happens to be a pedophile. And she executes him in the name of all the poor helpless 14-year-old girls who are — well, not at all like her, that’s for sure.
I had a rather high opinion of Ellen Page before I saw this one. While I didn’t like Juno — too cutesy and unrealistic for my taste — I totally loved her in The Tracey Fragments. Again, she plays a disturbed teenager, but here her character is more vulnerable and she demonstrates more nuance. In Hard Candy, her precocious rambling, her cold and calculating movements soon became predictable, even monotonous. Sure, she had to follow the script, but I hold it against her that she’d be part of such a monstrous, ultimately tasteless movie.
In Mouth to Mouth, another dumb movie, Ellen plays yet another troubled teen. In fact, her roles in the films I’ve seen are all somewhat similar. With the exception of The Tracey Fragments, they can all be avoided — no big loss. Hard Candy, on the other hand, better be avoided by all means. Don’t become the victim and be tortured by this movie.