Hard Candy and The Queen

I watched these two seemingly vastly different movies last week. One features a child molester and a psycopathic teenager, the other offers an uptight octogenarian and a young politician. They don’t seem to have anything in common, but really they do: unlikeable characters.

As far as unlikeable characters go the teenage psychopath (Ellen Page) isn’t so bad. I’ve dated girls who were arguably sicker and possibly more vindictive. But the child molester (Patrick Wilson) was too much for me. At one point, he makes a tearful confession to attempt to explain why he molests children. The idea here is to make his character more human, so that we viewers will switch allegiance from the teenage girl, and instead begin rooting for the pedophile. But it just completely backfires for me: I find myself wondering why I am watching a movie about such reprehensible characters.

Does anyone like being toyed with like this at the movies?

The quick answer is, “Yes!”

At least, I enjoyed watching the redemption of the distasteful royal characters in the Queen. Queen Elizabeth II (Helen Mirren) is delightfully imperious, even when she behaves so coldly toward poor Diana, Princess of Wales, who in some ways steals the show even with no character playing her part. Although Tony Blair (Michael Sheen) is never really an unlikeable character, he gets the most ham handed scene in the movie: halfway through, as we’re all but on the side of the Queen, he upbraids one of his colleagues for not realizing how strong, resiliant, and noble the Queen truly is. You can’t help but feel director Stephen Frears lost faith in his audience’s ability to grasp what was going on, and decided to have Tony Blair explian it all, as if it were a cheap detective story. Despite this scene, Sheen does a fabulous job, too.

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