“Candy” is a poor attempt to portray the junkie lifestyle in a sympathetic manner because the film never achieves enough distance from its strung-out protagonists to generate any interest in their lives or their plight. Writer/director Neil Armfield is content to watch his characters engage in copious amounts of heroin instead of making the audience care about the fates of these two misguided, young lovers. The film feels like a meticulous observation on the process of how two people can ruin their lives with drugs instead of being a rewarding character study with deeper implications.
When Dan (Heath Ledger) meets Candy (Abbie Cornish) he wants to share everything with her, including the experience of getting high. His interest in drugs is partly encouraged by Casper (Geoffrey Rush), a father figure and chemistry professor at a local college. Candy and Dan spend their days getting high and making love, occasionally taking a break for Dan to write his “poetry” and Candy to work on her “art.” When money becomes scarce, Candy begins prostituting herself and Dan, the sad sap that he is, just watches. He does not intervene but fidgets in their car while Candy turns tricks. He can’t even stay sober at their wedding reception or muster up the resolve to keep his love from using her body as a means to support their mutual habit. When Candy becomes pregnant, the two vow to get clean, but their detox attempt results in a miscarriage. Their relationship quickly spins out control: Candy suffers a nervous breakdown and Dan ends up washing dishes at a local restaurant.
Since most of the film is spent watching Dan and Candy go through their daily ritual of getting high- heating heroine, injecting it and then sitting around in their drug induced high-the film quickly becomes an exercise in repetition. Similar scenes exist in films such as “Traffic” and “Requiem for a Dream”, but whereas those films contained more complex narratives Candy is just a diary of two junkie lovers. There’s nothing special about the two characters and their ambitions could probably be attached to most want-to-be artists turned junkies. It’s a sad story but not a unique one and no commentary is made about the situation at large. Some parts of their lives are romanticized, others portrayed in a horrific manner, but at no point is any real interest generated. Heath Ledger and Abbie Cornish are capable actors and attractive people, but their talents are wasted with a script that can’t even achieve its own meek aspirations.
Title screens divide into three sections – heaven, earth and hell – but in reality it exists in that dull plain called middle ground. Films about drugs hold potential to be powerful allegories and hopefully the next one will be more than just an observation on how to use heroin.
Kevin Craft can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.