A Bittersweet Love Story: 'Candy' Movie Review
At the peak of his career, Heath Ledger decided to return to his native Australia to star in a small independent film directed by newcomer Neil Armfield. It was an unusual move for someone who was in an open global artistic rise, but that speaks volumes about how compelling the project was.
Candy is based on the book Candy: A Novel Of Love And Addiction written in 1998 by Luke Davies, inspired by his own heroin addiction and his relationship with Melbourne painter Megan Bannister. Like many other places on the planet, Sydney and Melbourne were cities with severe heroin problems in the late 1980s.
It's impossible not to think about Christiane F. but a decade later and with an Australian setting instead of German.
Candy tells the love story between Candy (Abbie Cornish) and Dan (Heath Ledger). The first act, entitled "Heaven" shows both involved in a bohemian artistic lifestyle. The poet and the painter, their love is intense and truly genuine.
Unfortunately, heroin is a fundamental part of their dynamic. Quickly hooked with the hardcore drug, both invest all their energy in getting money to buy the regular dose. Sometimes they borrow money from Candy's parents, sometimes they pawn some of their possessions.
Sometimes, they go to chemist/drug maker/university professor Casper (Geoffrey Rush), who has emerged as a kind of twisted druggy father figure. Perhaps ignoring the level of addiction of both, Casper is genuinely sweet and affectionate with both of them, even though he doesn't hesitate to offer them his heroine creations, like the one he called "Yellow Jesus".
Quickly, the dynamic begins to take a much more decadent path. Without work and with an expensive addiction to maintain, Dan and Candy are left without things to sell. Candy doesn't hesitate to resort to prostitution to get money. Dan, paralyzed, is only capable of babbling "I'm sorry".
And that horrendous dynamic, in which Candy, in her own words "fuck men who I hate" and Dan just waits and waits for the money to buy the daily dose, begins to normalize between them. They live an infernal everyday life for a few hours of oblivion on their old bedroom mattress.
The relationship begins to erode. Candy evidently resents Dan for not doing anything to get money or to at least try to stop her from prostitution. Dan is in a terrible state of lethargy because as he says "for every ten years you've been a junkie, you'll have spent seven of them waiting. On the one hand, it was nice having all that time to think. On the other, anxiety was a full-time job".
In an absurd attempt to fix things, they get married. And with that forced "adulthood", comes the second act, entitled "Earth". They live in terrible conditions, with Candy's mother resenting them even more. Dan has started to steal wallets to help with the expenses.
The low point of their brand new marriage comes with the news that Candy is pregnant. Both see it as "a signal" and decide to get clean. The tortuous withdrawal process, self-imposed and without the help of any professional, ends with violence and a terrible outcome: A miscarriage. Candy is even forced to deliver the stillborn. Her addicted marriage has literally made her not giving birth, but death.
It's a horrendous, dark moment that gives way to the third act, coherently titled "Hell". Both try to continue their lives, but quickly fall back into addiction. Candy has a mental breakdown that makes her be admitted to a clinic. Dan, feeling guilty, takes refuge in his friend Casper, until the old professor ends up dying of an overdose.
Dan and Candy recover separately. However, when Candy tries to resume her relationship with Dan, with the genuine intention of leading a healthy life, Dan is the voice of reason.
Dan makes her understand that unfortunately, the love relationship between them will always be linked to the addiction. The best thing for the health of both is to avoid that temptation, separating definitely.
And it's there, in that sad moment, where it's clear that the love between the two was genuine. It's bittersweet but compelling.
What's Your Rating For Candy?
The great Abbie Cornish and Heath Ledger stand out with a great performance, making Candy an experience worth seeing. They both manage to perfectly capture the toxicity of the relationship, but at the same time always showing that their love, however clumsy and twisted, it was genuine. Geoffrey Rush, on the other hand, feels completely underutilized. But maybe it's his imposing presence that makes his character so effective in the influence he exerts over the protagonist duo.
Candy is a movie that portrays a story that has been better told on other occasions. However, the experience of seeing the youthful purity of Ledger and Cornish being ravaged by heroine makes it an interesting histrionic experience.
Release Year: 2006
Director(s): Neil Armfield
Actors: Heath Ledger, Abbie Cornish, Geoffrey Rush, a.o.