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Patrick Wilson and Ellen Page on the Sweet Revenge of “Hard Candy”

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By Michael Scasserra

IFC News

“How do you wipe chocolate off a 14-year-old girl’s mouth?” That’s one of the tougher questions that all-American leading man Patrick Wilson had to struggle with when he took on the role of pedophile Jeff Kohlver in “Hard Candy,” an unnerving, completely riveting psychological thriller cast in the mold of “Death and the Maiden,” “Extremities” and “Oleanna.”

As a charming, 32-year-old fashion photographer and internet stalker, Wilson more than meets his match when he lures precocious, 14-year-old Hayley Stark (terrific newcomer Ellen Page) out of a chat room and into his candy-colored home — where she proceeds to turn the tables in an increasingly grisly manner. If you winced when Kathy Bates hobbled James Caan in “Misery,” wait until you see what Page has got in store for Wilson.

Director David Slade’s cat-and-mouse game, in which Hayley becomes detective, jury, and potential executioner, is an intensely acted two-hander with one of the most disturbing revenge twists you’re likely to see all year. The crafty screenplay by playwright Brian Nelson was inspired by a real-life story about a group of Japanese school girls who lured older men into hotel rooms — then beat them and took their money.

“This is not a pedophile movie,” maintains Wilson. “It’s about the power struggle between two protagonists — or two antagonists, depending on how you look at it. It’s about taking responsibility for your actions — and about where you draw the line between justice and vengeance.”

Was Wilson, now an expectant father himself, uncomfortable taking on such a controversial role — particularly one that’s hitting screens at a time when internet child abuse permeates the media? “I was no more uncomfortable than I was playing a closeted, gay Mormon (in ‘Angels in America’), or running around in long hair with a sword (in ‘Phantom of the Opera’),” he explains. “I wouldn’t take a part if I felt that uncomfortable. He is who he is. These guys tend to be charismatic — or they wouldn’t be successful. When you’re playing the good guy, you want to find the dirty parts — and when you’re playing the bad guy, you want to find the vulnerability.”

Vulnerability is putting it mildly. In “Hard Candy”, Wilson spends most of his screen time in increasingly uncomfortable emotional and physical positions — and often does his toughest acting while tied down to a makeshift operating table. An exhausting, 18½-day shoot required both actors to dive into Nelson’s script with abandon — and to do their own stunts.

In “Hard Candy”, the roles of predator and prey are in constant flux. Like “Crash,” “Hard Candy” forces viewers to take a point-of-view — and draw their own moral lines. “No one would deny that his taking this girl home is wrong,” says Wilson, “but what happens from there is open for debate.”

“In this movie, the whole concept of good versus bad is askew,” says Page, a young Canadian (she was 17 when the movie was shot in 2004) who was cast over 300 contenders. “One moment you feel sympathy for a character — and the next, you feel utter hatred.”

“You don’t usually come across a 14-year-old girl who’s written so well,” continues Page, who sought inspiration from Jodie Foster’s subtle portrayal of a teenage murderess in 1977’s “The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane.” “I think we’re really starved for passionate, intelligent young female roles in the media. Hayley has so many layers. She is an exceedingly intelligent, passionate young woman who sees something wrong in society — and sees that nothing is being done about it.”

Page’s commanding performance in “Hard Candy” is likely to earn this rising star a lot of attention. She’s got the indie “Mouth to Mouth” opening in May, and later this year goes Hollywood as Shadowcat in “X-Men: The Last Stand.” But with “Hard Candy” hitting screens first, is she worried about being typecast as a man-killer — on screen or off?

“I’m not concerned that having done this film will make me worry about the men I go out with,” she says. “I’m more concerned that it will make them worry about me.

“”Hard Candy”” opens in New York and L.A. on April 14 (official site). Gentlemen, be prepared to squirm.



Reminders that the ’90s were a thing

"The Place We Live" is available for a Jessie Spano-level binge on Comedy Crib.

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GIFs via Giphy

Unless you stopped paying attention to the world at large in 1989, you are of course aware that the ’90s are having their pop cultural second coming. Nobody is more acutely aware of this than Dara Katz and Betsy Kenney, two comedians who met doing improv comedy and have just made their Comedy Crib debut with the hilarious ’90s TV throwback series, The Place We Live.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Dara: It’s everything you loved–or loved to hate—from Melrose Place and 90210 but condensed to five minutes, funny (on purpose) and totally absurd.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Betsy: “Hey Todd, why don’t you have a sip of water. Also, I think you’ll love The Place We Live because everyone has issues…just like you, Todd.”


IFC: When you were living through the ’90s, did you think it was television’s golden age or the pop culture apocalypse?

Betsy: I wasn’t sure I knew what it was, I just knew I loved it!

Dara: Same. Was just happy that my parents let me watch. But looking back, the ’90s honored The Teen. And for that, it’s the golden age of pop culture. 

IFC: Which ’90s shows did you mine for the series, and why?

Betsy: Melrose and 90210 for the most part. If you watch an episode of either of those shows you’ll see they’re a comedic gold mine. In one single episode, they cover serious crimes, drug problems, sex and working in a law firm and/or gallery, all while being young, hot and skinny.

Dara: And almost any series we were watching in the ’90s, Full House, Saved By the Bell, My So Called Life has very similar themes, archetypes and really stupid-intense drama. We took from a lot of places. 


IFC: How would you describe each of the show’s characters in terms of their ’90s TV stereotype?

Dara: Autumn (Sunita Mani) is the femme fatale. Robin (Dara Katz) is the book worm (because she wears glasses). Candace (Betsy Kenney) is Corey’s twin and gives great advice and has really great hair. Corey (Casey Jost) is the boy next door/popular guy. Candace and Corey’s parents decided to live in a car so the gang can live in their house. 
Lee (Jonathan Braylock) is the jock.

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

Dara: Because everyone’s feeling major ’90s nostalgia right now, and this is that, on steroids while also being a totally new, silly thing.

Delight in the whole season of The Place We Live right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib. It’ll take you back in all the right ways.


New Nasty

Whips, Chains and Hand Sanitizer

Turn On The Full Season Of Neurotica At IFC's Comedy Crib

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Jenny Jaffe has a lot going on: She’s writing for Disney’s upcoming Big Hero 6: The Series, developing comedy projects with pals at Devastator Press, and she’s straddling the line between S&M and OCD as the creator and star of the sexyish new series Neurotica, which has just made its debut on IFC’s Comedy Crib. Jenny gave us some extremely intimate insight into what makes Neurotica (safely) sizzle…


IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon.

IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. You’re great. We should get coffee sometime. I’m not just saying that. I know other people just say that sometimes but I really feel like we’re going to be friends, you know? Here, what’s your number, I’ll call you so you can have my number!

IFC: What’s your comedy origin story?

Jenny: Since I was a kid I’ve dealt with severe OCD and anxiety. Comedy has always been one of the ways I’ve dealt with that. I honestly just want to help make people feel happy for a few minutes at a time.

IFC: What was the genesis of Neurotica?

Jenny: I’m pretty sure it was a title-first situation. I was coming up with ideas to pitch to a production company a million years ago (this isn’t hyperbole; I am VERY old) and just wrote down “Neurotica”; then it just sort of appeared fully formed. “Neurotica? Oh it’s an over-the-top romantic comedy about a Dominatrix with OCD, of course.” And that just happened to hit the buttons of everything I’m fascinated by.


IFC: How would you describe Ivy?

Jenny: Ivy is everything I love in a comedy character – she’s tenacious, she’s confident, she’s sweet, she’s a big wonderful weirdo.

IFC: How would Ivy’s clientele describe her?

Jenny:  Open-minded, caring, excellent aim.

IFC: Why don’t more small towns have local dungeons?

Jenny: How do you know they don’t?

IFC: What are the pros and cons of joining a chain mega dungeon?

Jenny: You can use any of their locations but you’ll always forget you have a membership and in a year you’ll be like “jeez why won’t they let me just cancel?”

IFC: Mouths are gross! Why is that?

Jenny: If you had never seen a mouth before and I was like “it’s a wet flesh cave with sharp parts that lives in your face”, it would sound like Cronenberg-ian body horror. All body parts are horrifying. I’m kind of rooting for the singularity, I’d feel way better if I was just a consciousness in a cloud.

See the whole season of Neurotica right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.


The ’90s Are Back

The '90s live again during IFC's weekend marathon.

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Photo Credit: Everett Digital, Columbia Pictures

We know what you’re thinking: “Why on Earth would anyone want to reanimate the decade that gave us Haddaway, Los Del Rio, and Smash Mouth, not to mention Crystal Pepsi?”


Thoughts like those are normal. After all, we tend to remember lasting psychological trauma more vividly than fleeting joy. But if you dig deep, you’ll rediscover that the ’90s gave us so much to fondly revisit. Consider the four pillars of true ’90s culture.

Boy Bands

We all pretended to hate them, but watch us come alive at a karaoke bar when “I Want It That Way” comes on. Arguably more influential than Brit Pop and Grunge put together, because hello – Justin Timberlake. He’s a legitimate cultural gem.

Man-Child Movies

Adam Sandler is just behind The Simpsons in terms of his influence on humor. Somehow his man-child schtick didn’t get old until the aughts, and his success in that arena ushered in a wave of other man-child movies from fellow ’90s comedians. RIP Chris Farley (and WTF Rob Schneider).



Teen Angst

In horror, dramas, comedies, and everything in between: Troubled teens! Getting into trouble! Who couldn’t relate to their First World problems, plaid flannels, and lose grasp of the internet?

Mainstream Nihilism

From the Coen Bros to Fincher to Tarantino, filmmakers on the verge of explosive popularity seemed interested in one thing: mind f*cking their audiences by putting characters in situations (and plot lines) beyond anyone’s control.

Feeling better about that walk down memory lane? Good. Enjoy the revival.


And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.