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Strong performances with no cultural cringe

Candy: 116 Minutes, Rating: MA15+Director: Neil Armfield, Starring: Heath Ledger, Abbie Cornish, Geoffrey Rush Based on Luke Davies’ acclaimed best-selling novel, Candy tells the story of lovers Dan (Heath Ledger) and Candy (Abbie Cornish), whose lives are completely absorbed by their addiction to heroin, and passion for each other.  In an attractive opening sequence Candy and Dan ride the Gravitron at an amusement park while Tim Buckley’s Song to the Siren plays on the soundtrack (Buckley famously died of a heroin overdose in 1975, at the age of 28). The scene is a beautiful yet foreboding commencement to the film as Buckley’s anguished voice soars over the image of the spinning lovers. It is an indication of the inevitable descent into addiction that is to follow. This is the high point of the characters’ relationship and of the film.  From the outset, Candy and Dan are heroin addicts. The audience is never shown the two characters’ lives before their addiction to heroin. The result is that neither character is all that likeable and throughout the film as their situation becomes grimmer it is difficult to feel empathy for them. This point is evident in the film when Candy’s mum, Elaine (Noni Hazlehurst) laments the corruption of her daughter, when she screams that Dan ruined her beautiful child. At this point in the story the audience only knows Candy as a junkie and prostitute, so it is all too simple to sit back and think ‘what beautiful child?’ It is easy to feel sorry for Dan and Candy and hope that they can sort out their lives, but the connection between the audience and the characters is a superficial one. It is informed more by the awareness of heroin as a highly addictive, life-ruining substance than the individual circumstances of the characters in the film.  This is not to say that Candy is a bad film. It’s just not a great film. It is an Australian story with no hint of cultural cringe, there are some genuinely humorous moments amidst the tension that inhabits so much of the film, and the performances are strong; Ledger and Cornish are fine, and there is a good chemistry between them. Noni Hazlehurst and Tony Martin are excellent as Candy’s parents and Geoffrey Rush is flamboyant as the drug-dealing professor of chemistry, Casper.  There are so many scenes in Candy that have become staples of the ‘heroin-film’: The Score, The Hit, The Overdose, The Withdrawal, The Family Fight. Candy also has a three-act structure with the titles ‘Heaven,’ ‘Earth,’ and ‘Hell,’ which recalls the four-season structure of Darren Aronofsky’s brilliant film of heroin addiction, Requiem For a Dream. Ultimately, there is too great a sense of déjà vu apparent while watching Candy. There are many reasons to watch Candy as a piece of Australian cinema, but audiences have been on this ride before.   If you want to watch the trailer of Candy, click here



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