Even average movies about drug use are watchable, if only because you know something bad is going to happen to the main characters. If you're interested in a dark love story about a heroin-addicted couple (Heath Ledger and Abbie Cornish) ruining their lives, director Neil Armfield's "Candy" gets the job done. But if you've seen better drug movies like "The Panic in Needle Park," "Trainspotting" or "Drugstore Cowboy," you'll need a serious jones for human suffering in order to remain interested in "Candy."
Honestly, if you've only read the synopses of a few drug movies, you could tell me the story: Would-be poet Dan (Ledger) meets would-be painter Candy (Cornish). Boy takes girl to amusement park. Boy and girl fall in love. Boy introduces girl to heroin, leading to a 10-year addiction funded by prostitution and petty crimes. Life gets steadily worse until the end.
Dan and Candy's movement from young bliss to bitter end is divided into three acts, bluntly titled "Heaven," "Earth" and "Hell." It's all very literal, as if made for Sunday-night television. Candy's name is less a metaphor than a symbol too obvious to be taken seriously. Ledger and Cornish are fine in their respective roles, and their characters' lives are convincingly squalid and grotesque.
The problem is it doesn't amount to much more than the movie-length equivalent of a nasty highway accident. If nothing else, you'd expect such a story to reveal more about what addiction is like. But "Candy" always resorts to cliché, like the shivering and sweating-out of withdrawals during an attempt to quit. The real addiction on display here is the movie establishment's how some people can't get enough stories about spoiled white kids who self-destruct. (R) 108 min. ** S