Monday, May 01, 2006

Hiding My Candy

Saw the movie Hard Candy tonight. (That link is to the system-slowing official site; IMDB page is here.) Ended up going alone, because I knew none of my friends were interested in this story of a 14-year-old girl and the 30something man she meets online. This only heightened the intense creeeeeeepiness of the experience. It is by no means a feel-good film, and I felt increasingly numb through most of it, from the opening scene through the last of the half-dozen-or-so twists and turns. (Spoiler alert: I will try not to reveal anything you don't find out in the first 30 minutes of the movie or won't discover from any review, but if you want to see it, you might not want to read this entry till afterward. And by no means should you take a peek at the following officially released still, which has been fairly widely disseminated by now:)

A friend asked me why I wanted to see this thing, and I told her I'd heard good stuff about the film and the female lead, Ellen Page and that I am always interested in films about what I euphemistically referrred to as "shifting power dynamics." All true. But because I'm writing anonymously here, I can say what you probably already know, which is that I was titillated by the prospect of seeing that cute Patrick Wilson from the HBO version of Angels in America tied up and tortured, no matter who was doing the tying and torturing. The pedophilia theme held no interest for me, intellectually or erotically--although I did recently finish listening to the audiobook version of Lolita, which is something I've been meaning to write about here for ages and still might, but I digress.

The same fascination with film depictions of fairly extreme states has previously led me to watch the recent horror movie Hostel and the reeeaaaaaally bad Nicholas Cage/Joel Schumacher thriller 8mm (both accompanied by horror-fan friends); I'd like to see the two Saw movies someday, too, even though I have a feeling I won't like them very much. Many years ago I tried to watch the Spanish film In a Glass Cage (another tale of someone seeking revenge on a pedophile, this one a Nazi pedophile), but I walked out in revulsion after the first 45 minutes or so.

Part of me feels like "What's this world coming to / all these escalating images of torture and depravity / it's all basically a form of mainstreamed fetish porn [etc]," and another part of me confesses that I'm a member of the very audience i'm decrying. I don't particularly like rollercoasters, but I do (sometimes) enjoy the thrill of a good suspenseful movie that isn't afraid to go into very dark territory. I'm just a little concerned that our culture is so willing to keep amping up its definition of "very dark territory"--shades of the fall of the Roman Empire, you know.

As for Hard Candy, I must admit that Roger Ebert has a point; a lot of the concerns he raises in his (essentially positive) review passed through my mind as well.

But I want to suggest an alternate perspective that occured to me about an hour into the film, which is that it can be viewed as a superhero movie, about a Batman (or more accurately Punisher)-style vigilante dishing out homegrown justice against criminals whose evils would probably go underpunished by the justice system. It's all there: dual identities, copious research and training, arsenal of specialized weapons, you name it. The fact that the "hero" is such an unlikely individual, and the "villain" elicits such sympathy, only demonstates why it's so much more interesting than any actual superhero flick I can think of.

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