Candy (2006)
By Eoin Carroll

Part One: Film Information

Cast and Crew Information:
Director: Neil Armfield
Scriptwriter: Luke Davies (novel), Neil Armfield (screen)
Cinematographer: Garry Phillips
Producer: Margaret Fink, Emile Sherman
Production Company: Renaissance Films

Cast:
Heath Ledger as Dan
Abbie Cornish as Candy
Geoffrey Rush as Casper
Noni Hazelhurst as Elaine Wyatt
Tony Martin as Jim Wyatt
David Argue as Lester

Release Date: 25 May 2006 (Australia)
                       19 November 2006 (US)
Box Office: $44,720 (USA)
Awards/Nominations
AFI Awards:
Adapted Screenplay (Won)
Best Film Best
Best Production Design
Best Editing
Best Lead Actor
Best Lead Actress
Best Supporting Actor

Australian Writer’s Guild:
Awgie Award for Best Adapted Screenplay (Won)

Film Critics of Australia Awards:
Best Actor in a Supporting Role (Won)
Best Actress in a Lead Role (Won)
Best Actor in a Lead Role
Best Actress in a Supporting Role
Best Director
Best Film
Best Music Score
Best Screenplay - Adapted

Bibliography of interviews with filmmakers:

Neil Armfield
Cenere: http://www.cenere.com.au/files/articles/html/Candy.htm
Web Wombat: http://www.webwombat.com.au/entertainment/movies/armfield-int.htm
At The Movies: http://www.abc.net.au/atthemovies/txt/s1630823.htm

Luke Davies
SMH: http://www.smh.com.au/news/film/candy-man-an-authors-journey-from-page-to-screen/2006/05/03/1146335805692.html

Heath Ledger
Dark Horizons: http://www.darkhorizons.com/news06/ledger.php
Cole Smithey: http://filmcritic1963.typepad.com/interviews/2006/11/heath_ledger_on.html
Moviehole: http://www.moviehole.net/interviews/20060912_exclusive_interview_heath_ledg.html

Abbie Cornish
The Independent: http://news.independent.co.uk/people/profiles/article1858457.ece
The Daily Telegraph: http://www.news.com.au/dailytelegraph/story/0,22049,19757303-5006011,00.html

Bibliography of reviews

Because Candy is such a recently released film (2006), discussion of the film in books or in the form of essays is limited. The majority of reviews are to be found online.

Australian Book Review: http://home.vicnet.net.au/~abr/Current/Precott%20review.htm

Empire Magazine, Issue 63, June 2006, pp16-17.

Sydney Morning Herald: http://www.smh.com.au/news/film-reviews/candy/2006/05/24/1148150321197.html

Films on-line presence in web literature

Again, as Candy was released in 2006, the majority of its reviews can be found online. Despite being a non commercial Australian film, there is an extensive catalogue of reviews both domestic and international. The films official website (http://www.dendyfilms.com.au/candy/) also contains many snippets from various reviews of the film.

Cinephilia: http://www.cinephilia.net.au/show_detailed_review.php?movieid=3114&link=australia
Eye Weekly: http://www.eyeweekly.com/tiff/?p=31&program
EyeForFilm: http://www.eyeforfilm.co.uk/reviews.php?film_id=11909
FilmCritic.com: http://filmcritic.com/misc/emporium.nsf/2a460f93626cd4678625624c007f2b46/6c4e752e61f9e7ad8825721a0014cf08?OpenDocument
Film-Forward: http://film-forward.com/candy.html
In Film: http://www.infilm.com.au/reviews/candy.htm
Media Culture: http://reviews.media-culture.org.au/article.php?sid=1463
MovieReview: http://www.moviereview.com.au/cfcandy.html
TheCinemaSource: http://www.thecinemasource.com/v3/movieinfo.php?movieid=2496
The Screen Directory: http://www.thescreendirectory.com/cat/reviews_detail.php?p=125
Triple J: http://www.abc.net.au/triplej/review/film/s1641557.htm
Urban Cinefile: http://www.urbancinefile.com.au/home/view.asp?a=11773&s=Reviews

Information Search

Finding information on Candy was not a very difficult task as the film was only released last year. Most of this information came from the internet, particularly the Internet Movie Database, which was excellent in providing cast, crew and production details. To find interviews with the cast and crew I used internet search engines. Despite boasting international stars Ledger and Rush, the subject made sure Candy was not a very commercially viable product. This was the main difficulty in acquiring information. Also most journalists interviewing Heath Ledger for the film could not help themselves veering off the subject and onto his more Hollywood roles.

Part Two: Critical Review

* Synopsis and Review
Candy focuses on two young lovers whose lives are slowly being destroyed by an addiction to heroin. We follow the pair through three stages, labeled by the film as ‘Heaven’, ‘Earth’, and ‘Hell’, and watch as things get worse and worse for the two.
The film starts at a light point where we are introduced to the couple; Dan and Candy (played by Heath Ledger and Abbie Cornish), and their seemingly blissful relationship. They are seen as being passionately in love and living a carefree life. Soon, Dan is revealed to be a heroin addict, and it’s not too long before Abbie is taking her first injection (and her first overdose). Still, the drug has not yet taken over their lives at this point and their bond seems unbreakable. We are also introduced to Geoffrey Rush’s Casper, a wealthy professor who also has a taste for heroin and seems to be Dan’s mentor.
Before long, Dan and Candy are married and expecting their first child. At this point the film really starts to take a darker turn. Both their addictions and living conditions are worsening, as Candy has to resort to prostitution to get money for drugs. This downward spiral continues as the couple loses their child with horrific results, and their relationship begins to crumble.
Despite trying different methods to kick the habit, their lives are deteriorating, as their family (basically just Candy’s parents) watches helplessly. Eventually, Candy suffers a breakdown as Dan leaves her at their country home to score heroin with Casper, and her parents check her into a mental institute. When Dan goes to visit her he sees how much destruction he has caused in this beautiful girl’s life and just what a futile pair they make. This leads him to make the ultimate sacrifice, leaving Candy after she has recovered so that her life can still be saved.
Candy is certainly no easy ride. When even the supposedly happy section ‘Heaven’ involves something as sinister as an overdose just minutes in, the viewers know we are in for a bumpy ride. The film is very well shot and directed, with the grim style perfect for the subject matter. The story focuses almost completely on the two lead characters as they share just about every minute of screen time, and fortunately the actors do not disappoint. I have never been a big Heath Ledger fan, but he is excellent as Dan. Abbie Cornish is a revelation, superb from the start in the devastating title role. The supporting actors, Noni Hazelhurst and Tony Martin as Candy’s parents and Geoffrey Rush as Casper, all give fine performances that add to the films heart. Without theses excellent performances the film would have been a certain disaster, as the viewer really must connect with the characters portrayed, otherwise we simply would not care. By no means is Candy an enjoyable film; however this was never the point. What we have is a superb showing in film making and acting, and a harrowing look at heroin addicts that stays with you long after the credits have rolled.

* Critical Uptake
When Candy was first released it came not too long after the critically acclaimed Little Fish, another Australian film dealing with drug addiction. For some critics this seemed too much too soon. However, the general critical uptake for Candy was in fact positive. Of all the reviews I read, only a few were very negative of the film, usually the reason being it didn’t have the heart of Trainspotting or the style of Requiem for a Dream. Most reviews instead, were labeling the film somewhere between good and excellent. Just about all the reviews agreed the acting in the film was first class, with many of the international critics noting that Cornish is certainly one to watch.
Subsequently, with the film entering the world of DVD, the critical ratio seems to be about 90% positive, around the same percentage as the film received during its cinematic run. In all, the film was definitely a well reviewed film overall.

* Production and Release
Luke Davies released his novel Candy: A Novel of Love and Addiction in 1998 to much acclaim. The next year Davies and Armfield began to collaborate on the screenplay. Davies has revealed the biggest struggle was converting what is essentially an inner monologue from a book into a film. Finally, in 2005 the film was cast and ready to begin production. The Film Finance Corporation, Paradigm Hyde Films, and Renaissance Films were the production companies that funded the film.
Candy was released May 25 2006 in Australia and November 19 2006 in the United States, and generally received much critical acclaim. Unfortunately I haven’t been able to find box office figures for the film during its domestic run. However, imdb.com does state the US figures, totaling US$44720 in a less than 3 month run.

* Prior Work of the Film Makers
For Neil Armfield, the director and co-writer, this his first film related work in more than 15 years. For Luke Davies, the writer, this was his first film experience altogether. Armfield was a critically acclaimed theatre director, and is currently Artistic Director of the Belvoir Street Theatre in Sydney. Prior to Candy he had directed two other small scale Australian films, but was known internationally for his work in theatre where he had received numerous awards and nominations. At the current time, I have not been able to find any future plans in terms of film work for Armfield.
Luke Davies on the other hand was a novelist and poet, and had also worked in teaching and journalism. He has stated that since Candy was made, he hopes to one day get into film direction.
Of the lead actors in Candy, both Heath Ledger and Geoffrey Rush are already international stars. For Abbie Cornish this was further step in her own rise to fame. She has since gone into production on a few Hollywood films, and is currently rumoured to be the next ‘James Bond girl’.
*Candy in relation to Australian film/ genre
Candy has come at a time where Australian film is experiencing a critical revival. The past few years have seen a sort of resurgence in the quality Australian dramatic film; from Two Hands and Chopper at the turn of the century, to critically acclaimed films in the past two years such as Look Both Ways, Little Fish and Ten Canoes. Candy fits with these films as it refuses to compromise its artistic image to make it more commercially acceptable. These values are very important in Australian film keeping its identity. It is small things such as the subtle black humour many of these films possess that really bring a sense of ‘Australianness’ to the screen. However, due to the subject matter of some of these films, they are never destined to become huge financial successes. Candy seems to fit this, as it did not rank in the top 10 money makers for 2006, despite its star power. Still the fact that these types of films are being made, and are being noticed and awarded, is certainly a positive for the future of Australian films.
As far as categorizing Candy, the film can be placed in the social realism genre. While the film is based around a romantic relationship, the fact that the main characters love heroin as much as each other makes it difficult to place it as a romance film. Instead, its realistic and gritty outlook at the life of two drug addicts places it in this social realism area, as the film deals with social issues such as addiction, relationships and crime.

Film List

Candy (Neil Armfield, 2006)
Chopper (Andrew Dominik, 2000)
Little Fish (Rowan Woods, 2005)
Look Both Ways (Sarah Watt, 2005)
Requiem for a Dream (Darren Aronofsky, 2000)
Ten Canoes (Rolf de Heer, 2006)
Trainspotting (Danny Boyle, 1996)
Two Hands (Gregor Jordan, 1999)