British director David Slade made a "striking" big screen debut with American indie Hard Candy. A thriller in which a young girl terrorises a paedophile is bound to draw attention, but it was the sharp writing, crisp direction and fearless acting of Ellen Page and Patrick Wilson that got critics to sit up and take notice. Although it wasn't a hit at US box office, the film did brisk business in the UK.
Forming the centrepiece of this DVD is an in-depth, hour-long documentary that covers the film from inception to its debut at the 2005 Sundance Film Festival. It was the brainchild of producer David Higgins who wanted to break free of the studio system to tell a story based on a real-life phenomenon in Japan where gangs of young girls ambushed businessmen looking for sex with minors. Page and Wilson reveal the emotional toll of the 18-and-a-half day shoot ("I was tired from reading the script," says Page) and Slade explains exactly how he achieved such a polished, stylised look on a shoestring budget. He also talks about editing, which was vital to building suspense, and there are smatterings of b-roll footage.
"If you're going to make an independent movie, you've got to make something controversial and provocative," says Higgins in Controversial Confection. However, this featurette is about what lies beneath the story's sensational premise. Cast and crew stress the importance of fleshing out the characters to find their underlying humanity even in the most shocking moments.
Slade is joined by writer Brian Nelson in one of two commentaries for the film. They talk about playing with audience expectations, the careful handling of the subject matter and the intricate business of putting it all together. Nelson is impressed that the final cut is so faithful to his original script, but Slade insists that "There were so many subtexts running through it" that "cutting things out was difficult." Complementing this track is a DVD-Rom copy of Nelson's script accompanied by Slade's notes.
Something For The Weekend...
It's evident that Slade and Nelson were on the same page, although a few scenes did get the chop. An extended version of Hayley (Page) giving Jeff (Wilson) a very close shave of his, um, intimate area is featured in the deleted scenes section along with a phone call Hayley makes to mom while holding a spray bottle of detergent an inch from Jeff's eye. It's incendiary stuff, but there are no prizes for guessing why their extended email exchanges were cut.
Wilson and Page give a more laidback commentary for the film (Slade and Nelson talk a mile a minute!) and give an insight into how they coped with the intensity of their scenes. Page reckons that holding a razor to Wilson's private parts was "just a flash in the pan" - another day at work - although Wilson not surprisingly had a tougher time with it. He gets his own back though, revealing how when they went for lunch together, Page was offered the child's menu...
If the mention of paedophilia put you off seeing the film on its theatrical release, this DVD offers a chance to reconsider. The extra features highlight the judicious approach of writer and director (to avoid graphic exploitation), plus there are lots of technical notes for budding filmmakers. In all, a sweet deal.