Although undeniably great at the conceptual level, “Candiland” fails to deepen the psychological depth it wishes to explore.
“Candiland” explores the toxic relationship of a dysfunctional couple – Peter, a once-star tennis player and Tessa, a plain girl that desperately looks for love. They lock themselves up in Peter’s apartment, creating a separate world they wish to call “Candiland”. The only one that can save them is Peter’s father, Arnie (Gary Busey).
The concept of Rusty Nixon’s indie drama is actually amazing.
Madness has many faces – people blinded by power as in Shakespearean’s “Macbeth”, people lured into claiming of their assumed uniqueness or people that just crave to watch the world burn. Behind each of that insanity, usually there is pain.
Rusty Nixon uses this thesis in “Candiland”. Peter is a hurt man, crushed by a fragile relationship with his father and the past that haunts him. He wishes to escape. But in the modern world, where phone marketers will always reach you, you can’t escape without going insane, can you? And the best way to go nuts is to shut the doors and stay in your beloved four walls for eternity.
Therefore, Peter brings in Tess and the couple drowns in a squared apartment, pissing in the corners, eating only cookies and painting some Dadaistic daubers literally everywhere. The dysfunctional couple is a terrifying view to watch. They are bonded together by pain they suffer, whilst their mutual fascination is perturbing.
Time is no longer present, days falls into one, long stream of random scraps of their existence. Peter’s transformation – that ends up with him reminiscing a concentration camp prisoner – is both tragic and appalling. However it is Tessa that truly frightens. She is fascinated by Peter, but seems to suck out any traces of energy from him. She writes about him, even sees a Messiah in him. Their love is toxic, her influence is too.
I am not sure if you understand me correctly – “Candiland” is really strong on the conceptual level. The examination of these two insane people is disturbing. The titular place that Tessa and Peter create is haunting. Yet, Nixon’s film doesn’t hit as hard as it could or as others did – “Monster” with Charlize Theron, “Candy” starring Heath Ledger or Polanski’s “The Tenant”. And there are multiple reasons for it.
First of all, it is truly terribly edited. I understand the idea behind eyelid-cuts between each scene, but it seems like covering-up pitiful skills in editing. There are numerous plot issues too. The subplot with Peter’s father is thrown in sloppily. Even the idea of the “crime scene” scenes ends up artificial. Whilst most of the story is dedicated to Peter and Tessa’s ugly downfall, those other bits are completely off. Nixon wanted too much to tell or – on the contrary – had to little to say, but still needed to fill in the gaps.
Either way, one is absolutely certain – there was no necessity to see Gary Busey massaging women feet. “Candiland” was weird anyway.
Even though “Candiland” is often quite a bad film, I surprisingly enjoyed it. It’s odd in many ways and I love weird cinema. Although I would be scared to see what this director would do with bigger budget, I wish that he does so one day – it could either be a bonkers acid-trip or a film massacre.
Dir. Rusty Nixon
Cast: James Clayton, Chelah Horsdal, Gary Busey
Hate Grade: 6/10