Candy (Australia, 2006)

A movie review by James Berardinelli

Candy is an Australian film that also offers a dose of familiarity. It's one of those drugs-are-hell movies that follows the time-tested path of watching two generally likable characters embark upon the road to self-destruction that results when recreational drug use tips over the edge into addiction. There are two things the bleak Candy has going for it: the characters are more self-aware than in most similar films (there's no denial - they're junkies and they know it) and the acting couldn't be better. Heath Ledger is as good as he has ever been, Geoffrey Rush is his usual reliable self, and Abbie Cornish is a dynamo. (Cornish, by the way, can currently be seen as a much different kind of character in A Good Year.) The movie, from Aussie director Neil Armfield, states its thesis early, and sticks to it: "When you can stop [drug use], you don't want to. When you want to, you can't."

Poet Dan (Ledger) and painter Candy (Cornish) are living a carefree life as young lovers, despite the disapproval of her parents, who think Dan is a loser. They don't make much money, so they live off love - and heroin. It doesn't take long before the drugs become their driving motivation for getting up in the morning. At first, they borrow money to buy the drugs, then they resort to pawning just about everything they own. Finally, Candy ventures into prostitution and Dan starts stealing and scamming. Her pregnancy encourages them to get serious about quitting but, without the necessary aid from an outside source, they are doomed to failure before they start.

Ledger and Cornish are so good it's possible to forget the familiarity of the script. These are two tragic characters trapped in a decaying orbit. They do the same things repeatedly, every time with less precision. The movie is divided into three acts, each of which is titled: "Heaven," "Earth," and "Hell." The first title is misleading; even before "Heaven" is over, the fall from grace has begun. Abby has sold her body for a bag of smack that turns out to be baby powder.

As is typical for movies of this sort, Candy is not a happy viewing experience. It in no way glamorizes drugs; quite the opposite, in fact. Although it tries to provide a glimpse of the upside that leads to addiction, it doesn't do so with much success. This is all about the collapse. Those hoping for new insight won't find it here. There's nothing in Candy that can't be found in better, more gut-wrenching offerings, such as Requiem for a Dream. Despite being well made and supremely acted, Candy is a true feel-bad experience.

Candy (Australia, 2006)

Run Time: 1:48
U.S. Release Date: 2006-11-17
MPAA Rating: "R" (Drugs, Sexual Situations, Profanity, Nudity)
Genre: DRAMA
Subtitles: none
Theatrical Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1