Having started chatting to fashion photographer Jeff (Wilson) on the Internet, 14-year-old Hayley (Page) agrees to meet him at a coffee shop. With the tone of their online meetings continuing in person, Hayley persuades Jeff to take her to his house, where she can see his work and hear a recent bootleg of a band she wanted to see in concert. He agrees, and soon Hayley is drinking cocktails in his eerily neat home as the conversation moves into ever more intimate territory. But while Jeff thinks he's the one in control, he's about to discover that Hayley has designed a very elaborate trap.
With its muted digital video feel and stage-like exchanges of dialogue, 'Hard Candy' begins very promisingly and uncomfortably. Director Slade piles on the tension, making you grow ever more wary of its two protagonists, until Hayley unleashes her plan to expose Jeff as a paedophile. Page is superb throughout and, in the more difficult role, Wilson doesn't over-act, but the two of them are let down by a director who lets his film unravel.
The problem is that rather than keep 'Hard Candy' low-key, and thus more powerful, like the Kevin Bacon-starring 'The Woodsman', Slade instead turns a character piece into a sometimes ridiculous justice/revenge fantasy that stretches credibility. The film degenerates into over-the-top battle of wits sequences between its two protagonists and the longer it goes on the more momentum the story loses. By the close, it's become too outlandish to have the lasting impact that it should have.
Page, however, is a great acting find and for giving her half a film to call her own Slade deserves much credit.