Tag Archives: [Hard Candy]

YOUR GUIDE TO: Hard Candy (2005, dir. David Slade)

1 Sep

hard candy

“Go on then. Worship me.” 

For those that loved:

Freeway, Kill Bill (part one), Halloween

For those that are writing on:

Representation of adolescent femininity/sexuality, positions of spectatorship, revenge cinema, images of women in the cinema, masculinity in crisis, relationships of power (especially in relation to representations of masculine and feminine sexuality)

In a nutshell

Far more brutal than a Mean Girl, and anything but Clueless, sharp-witted and ever-resourceful Hayley Stark is a teenage force to be reckoned with. This is ‘girl power’ in it’s truest, and most dangerous form. An understandably difficult but rewarding film.


When charming 32-year old photographer Jeff Kohlver (Patrick Wilson) strikes up a flirtatious online ‘friendship’ with seemingly naive 14-year-old-student Hayley Stark (Ellen Paige), the suggestion of a face-to-face meetings seems wrought with danger for Hayley. However, after going back to Jeff’s secluded suburban home, Hayley reveals a strength, intelligence and taste for revenge that throws them both into a tense cat-and-mouse struggle for power. As Hayley forces Jeff to confront his past indiscretions, the viewer is left to ponder the truth behind not only both characters actions, but both characters themselves.

Why should I watch?

Despite the R 18 rating, Hard Candy is not an explicitly violent nor explicitly sexual film, especially when compared to the numerous ‘gore porn’ features (Hostel or Saw anyone) that have found success within recent years, or even the slasher-pics of yore. However, the sensitive subject matter – adolescent sexuality and paedophilia –  at times make Hard Candy a difficult, albeit intriguing watch.

Slade masterfully maintains a tense and uneasy atmosphere throughout Hard Candy, and despite being hampered at times by an occasionally cheesy script, his artful direction and deft editing choices keep the film running at a cracking pace.

Playing out like a cinematic stage play, the relationship between Hayley and Jeff develops in a perhaps not entirely believable, but engrossing way, thanks to skillful performances from both leads. Wilson delivers a problematically charismatic performance, and when considered against the manipulative and almost monstrous Hayley, it is hard to know which side you are cheering for, if any at all. 

Consider/Further study etc

  • Initially Hayley can be seen to embody a fantasy image of adolescent femininity. How does Hayley subvert traditional characteristics of adolescent femininity? How dors she challenge the normative status of such characteristics?
  • How are women and women’s bodies represented throughout Hard Candy
  • Is the act of looking represented as an empowering or disempowering act? 
  • Consider (particularly in relation to Laura Mulvey’s theories of cinematic spectatorship) the spectatorial structures within Hard Candy. Does the film support or challenge Mulvey’s association of the gaze with masculine power and the act of being looked at with feminine submission?
  • Consider the roof scene, towards the end of the film. Here, Jeff’s ‘phallic’ weapon (his knife) is rendered useless. Are there any other instances within the film where a phallic symbol becomes disempowered?
  • Vision and voyeurism play an important role within Hard Candy. How does Jeff view women – ie does he worship them? Fear them? Hate them? What might this suggest about the representation of ‘traditional masculinity’ within Hard Candy?

FIVE OF THE BEST: Child performances

20 Aug

stanley - magnolia

1. Jeremy Blackman – Stanley Spector in Magnolia (1999)
Although his genius is confirmed by his record-breaking winning streak on a ‘children vs. adults’ quiz show, lonely Stanley Spector dodges the cliche precociousness found amongst many other child roles. Ignored and misunderstood by those around him, Blackman manages to convey not only a believable and touching sadness to the audience, but more importantly, a determined inner strength. Holding his own against an impressive ensemble cast in one of the best scenes of the film, Stanley informs his callouss father, quite simply, that “he needs to be nicer to him”. Only the coldest heart could possibly disagree.

hayley - hard candy2. Ellen Page – Hayley Stark in Hard Candy (2005)
As a pregnant hipster in the indie darling Juno, Page displayed a kind of sunny charm that seemed to come to her so naturally, it could be argued that she was maybe playing herself. However, her versatility is well proven here as the sardonic Hayley, a scheming teen with a vendetta against suspected paedophile Jeff. The quiet intensity of Page’s anger lifts occasionally hammy dialogue, and despite her diminutive figure, her power over Jeff is rarely in doubt.

annie - lovely and amazing3. Raven Goodwin – Annie Marks in Lovely & Amazing (2001)
Adopted into a bewildering upper-class white world, it is clear that life is, and will continue to be, hard for overweight African American child Annie. Her role models – two much older sisters and her adoptive mother – are dysfunctional and neurotic, and a carer found through a ‘big sister’ program refuses to continue their relationship after Annie tells a racial joke. Despite these moments of lashing out at the cruel world around her, Goodwin’s doe-eyed smile and undeniable charisma make her a lovable and memorable character.


son_of_rambow_movie_image__2_-14. Bill Milner & Will Poulter – Will Proudfoot and Leigh Carter in Son of Rambow (2007)
Although the story of the misfit nerd befriending the seemingly tough school bully is certainly nothing new, Rambow is a charming version of the lion and the mouse fable. Milner (as the slight and sheltered Will) and Poulter (as the rough around the edges Leigh) develop a believable bond and effect each other in a way that is both genuine and touching. Solid performances from Milner and Poulter ensure that Rambow steers clear of unbearable sentimentality or cliche pap.

tracey - 135. Evan Rachel Wood – Tracey Freeland in Thirteen (2003)
Although co-star Nikki Reed also delivers a solid performance as vampy, sexually promiscuous rebel Evie Samora, it is Wood who shines in this almost anti-coming-of-age film. A make-over movie with a difference, Tracey’s swift transformation (or disintegration) from unassuming nerd into a rebellious, pill-popping, thong-wearing nightmare is both painful and mesmerising to watch. A vivid mess of anger, dangerous curiosity, determination and confusion, it is hard to know whether to hug or lock up this Lolita of the new age.