Talk about out of touch and off the radar. News story after news story on Heath Ledger’s sad death in New York City has gone on and on about his upcoming role in Batman movie The Dark Knight and his Oscar-nominated work in Brokeback Mountain. And story after story has surveyed his short career from his breakout part in 10 Things I Hate About You to his recent channeling of Bob Dylan in I’m Not There.
Shot in his native Australia, Candy starred Ledger and Abbie Cornish as a young couple fiercely in love with each other — and with shooting poison into their veins. Geoffrey Rush played their older sugar daddy and carefree connection.
The film is an overly familiar yet disturbing look at drug abuse, and it includes one overdose death. But it’s also disturbing for the way it allowed its leads to remain beautiful and romantic despite what should have been repellent devastation.
For junkie enablers like Rush — and this film —Candy was like having your cake — or “candy” — and eating it, too. It showed Ledger’s virile, young, artistic character as a guy who could get as high as he wanted, and as often as he wanted, and still survive. Why? Because he was the movie’s hunky leading man and big star doing an art-house film — and because the script said so.
Now Ledger, as a virile, young, artistic man, is dead, with a pile of pills found near his body. And in that context, why has it not occurred to anyone — beyond me, it seems — that Candy could have been a case of art imitating life to come, but without the vital wakeup call? Did Ledger’s character influence his own choices, or did his own life influence the character? Those are heavy things to consider, and as the facts emerge in this tragedy, they may become increasingly pertinent. Yet Candy is being ignored by the clueless media reporting Ledger’s death, despite its wrenching relevance. More people than Ledger’s junkie character need a wakeup call.
Not to be confused with the 1968 sex farce featuring Marlon Brando, John Astin and Ringo Starr, Ledger’s Candy is available on DVD.