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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.

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The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

It’s not that being single sucks, it’s that you suck if you’re single.

Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at

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Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

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Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

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