By Meredith Farely
A fourteen-year-old girl seduces a thirty something intellectual in David Slade’s directorial debut, Hard Candy. We become unwilling (or not so unwilling) voyeurs as we squirm under the forced intimacy of excruciating close-ups and painfully personal dialogue between the coquettish Haley and Jeff, a successful photographer. The two chat on the Internet and decide to meet after a Lolita-like exchange in which both flirt and tease each other. An uncomfortable coffee house scene follows in which Haley, dressed like an urban little red riding hood, playfully seduces Jeff and is invited back to his retro-chic home. The plot turns upside down as roles are blurred while unanswered questions and unexplained motivations don’t so much intrigue as disturb.
The only constant in the film is the constantly evolving dynamic between the two characters. The camera hugs the two adversaries’ faces, forcing claustrophobia onto the audience. The topical content of the film, underage porn and the exploitation of young women, serves as a plot device rather than a central message for the audience. The film is not so much about exploitation as it is a cautionary tale of vengeance and a psychological thriller that uses topical issues as a jump-off point to delve into the deepest pools of the human conscience.