Candy is another film that’s rallying against drug abuse. It has three main characters, all of whom have their lives altered in some, negative, aspect, before leading to pretty much the only conclusion that these film ever lead to. We’ve seen it before, and there’s absolutely nothing fresh here, but it’s watchable largely because of the performances from the three main actors. Well, “watchable” might not be the right word, as it’s a difficult film to finish just because of the content.
If there’s anything fresh about Candy, it’s the fact that its characters never enter that annoying denial phase that characters often try to plea. “Oh, we’re not addicts,” they say before snorting another line. No, in this film, at the very least, the two younger characters are ready to admit that quite early on. They just don’t care, or believe that being addicted to a drug is going to significantly alter anything about them. That’s very naïve of them, but at least you can admire their spirit.
The other thing that Candy does differently is separating the different stages that the characters go through for the audience. Now, this happens in most of these kinds of films, but actually drawing attention to it is interesting. We begin the film in “Heaven,” and slowly transition to “Earth” and eventually to “Hell.” I’m not sure if this actually made the film any better, but it is worth noting if only because it shows us that Candy isn’t trying to hide anything from the audience; it knows exactly what it wants to draw your attention to, even if it has to pause the film and give us a single word to do so.
You would almost expect each of the phases to tell a distinct story. You know, “Heaven” would be pure bliss, “Earth” would be the beginning of the come down, and “Hell” would be the worst part, either because the characters are so addicted at this point that there’s no saving them, or because they’re trying to get help but can’t due to any number of reasons. But categorizing them puts an expectation that there will be a noticeable shift in tone, which simply wasn’t the case here. This is a story that could be told without the phases, and we would be unable to pick a spot to place the title cards.
We begin in “Heaven,” although the film’s opening scene is anything but. Dan (Heath Ledger) and Candy (Abbie Cornish) are in love, but they’re also heroin users. Dan injects, but Candy still only snorts it. She wants to inject, for whatever reason (a better high?), but Dan convinces her not to. She decides to get high in the bathtub, but ends up passing out, only to be woken up by the cautious Dan. Boy, isn’t this fun? A character has already almost died. Sure is like “Heaven.”
To be fair, most of the “Heaven” section works out fine for our leads. They get high a lot, borrow money from friends and family, and they don’t have a care in the world. It’s only as we begin to get to the “Earth” phase that things begin crashing down. For instance, they have run out of money, so they begin stealing, prostituting, fighting with one another over the simplest things, and life doesn’t seem all that fun.
“Earth” is the phase that contains most of the action of the film. It’s also the longest, as you’d expect from a three-act narrative. This is where the real descent occurs. There’s a background character played by Geoffrey Rush who provides money and drugs for these people (he’s likened to a “cool” father), although he is underutilized. This film is more concerned about the lives of these two young characters than it is about an old man. Not necessarily a bad thing, but I always like seeing Geoffrey Rush and would have liked more from him.
The “Hell” section of the film is likely going to play out similarly to how you’d expect. This is an anti-drug film, let me remind you. It’s not quite as grim an experience as something like Requiem for a Dream, but it’s right up there. It’s because of the tone and nature of Candy that it’s hard to actually “like” or enjoy it. It’s just not the type of film that you are supposed to enjoy, which instantly makes it difficult to recommend.
Being very cliché (for this type of film) also makes it difficult to recommend. You’ll have seen the majority of the things in this film before assuming you’ve seen one or two similar movies in the past. It doesn’t bring much to the table in terms of originality. So, if you’re tired of films about people abusing drugs and suffering for it, you’ll probably want to skip Candy.
That is, unless you’re a fan of either Heath Ledger or Abbie Cornish, in which case you’ll want to watch it just to see their performances in this film. They are fantastic, and even though their characters aren’t exactly likable or endearing, just watching the actors dissolve in them makes you want to see more — even if it’s not pleasant. Rush is also good, although in a more background role, he doesn’t get the material to really shine.
Candy is a good film that is severely lacking in originality. Even so, if you haven’t already exhausted your quota of anti-drug films, or if you’re a fan of either Heath Ledger or Abbie Cornish, I think it’s worth a watch. It’s not a fun time, though, so if you’re looking for a film to cheer you up after a tough day, you’ll definitely want to pick something else.