Borderlands (Zev Berman, 2007): 6.5/10

The Magic Flute (Ingmar Bergman, 1975): 7/10

La Guerre Est Finie (Alain Resnais, 1966): 7/10

Speed Racer (The Wachowski Brothers, 2008): 8/10

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Location: milwaukee, wi

Monday, October 23, 2006

Milwaukee International Film Festival: Candy (Neil Armfield, 2006)

Thursday marked the beginning of the Milwaukee International Film Festival, and in my unemployment, I've had some time to volunteer there. Mostly, I've been doing shifts answering the office phones ("Hello, Milwaukee International Film Festival, this is Dana, how can I help you?"), but Saturday night, I did a four-hour shift taking tickets and ballots at one of the theaters. For about twenty minutes of work, I got to see two phenomenal films (the other, A Boy Called Twist, I'll review later tonight). Candy, the utterly depressing yet oddly beautiful story of two heroin addicts in love, is definite Oscar-bait, especially with the phenomenal lead performance from Heath Ledger (so good that it rivals Gael Garcia Bernal's in The King for my favorite of the year), one that made me forget about Ledger the movie star, and just made me think of him as Dan, one of the hardest things for an actor to do.

Dan and Candy (played by Abbie Cornish, who really holds her own against Ledger and Geoffrey Rush) are, respectively, a heroin addict poet and a naive art student who wants to share everything in her boyfriend's life. The beginning of the film (titled Heaven, as opposed to Earth and Hell, the second and third parts) is beautiful in every way - Dan and Candy are deliriously happy, their drug use has not yet gotten out of control, and there are colors and light everywhere in their world. Even their supplier, Casper (played amazingly by Rush, whom I have been in complete admiration of since Quills) is happy for them, but he warns, "When you can stop, you don't want to, and when you want to stop, you can't." This defines the film, as well as Dan and Candy's relationship.

As Dan and Candy go from boyfriend and girlfriend to married couple, and Candy goes from young artist to escort to street sex worker who never does art anymore, their drug use goes from casual to intense, and tragedy starts striking them left and right. Even though they really brought these things upon themselves, you don't ever hate the couple; Candy was the less likeable to me, as she blames Dan for every problem in her life. Her character is flawed, both in human ways and in screenwriter ways that make it hard to believe her, but Cornish does amazingly with it. Dan, as portrayed by Ledger, is an eternal optimist who loves Candy with every fiber in his being, and wants nothing out of his life than to be with her. The withdrawal scenes are some of the most realistic, intensely painful ones I've ever seen, and the scene in the hospital, without giving anything away, is so incredibly raw that you can't help but feel punched in the chest.

The story is a non-romanticized vision of drug use, but it is also non-judgemental. Dan and Candy are people just like us, people who have made bad choices and cannot go back. Unlike Requiem for a Dream, which seems to share a plot with Candy, the horrors in this film are not exaggerated (no orgies here), and instead are just intensely personal and real, making it a far more effective film than the former. The performances are also much stronger than the former film, as the audience can recognize themselves in these people, and thus empathize with them rather than hold them at arm's length and inspect them. The final scene is completely realistic and yet heartbreaking, something that is very hard in drug films. Ledger and Rush really give the performances of their careers, and I'll be mighty angry if Ledger doesn't at least get an Oscar nomination for his portrayal of Dan. In fact, every part of this film, from the breathtaking script to Armfield's beautiful direction, deserves recognition. I'd be hard-pressed to find a more emotionally involving film this year. Checking out the MIFF ballots, most of which were marked "excellent," I'd say the rest of the audience agrees. Definitely check it out when it hits limited release on November 17.


RIYL: Requiem for a Dream (only in theme, NOT in style)

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Comments on "Milwaukee International Film Festival: Candy (Neil Armfield, 2006)"


Blogger Jenna said ... (6:49 AM) : 

Dana, sticking with the addiction theme, you should check out Down to the Bone - we just watched it last night (and now I'm itching to see Candy).


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