Poor Katie (Abbi Jacobson)!
All she wants to do is throw a surprise party for her new boyfriend and enjoy the 4th of July. Is that too much to ask? However, things are never easy. Her friends are ruthless in their critique of what she’s planning to wear. Her mother (Jane Kaczmarek) keeps pressuring her to go down to CVS and buy more makeup. As for her father (Tim Matheson) — well, he’s just too damn good-looking. All of her friends want to know if it was difficult for Katie to grow up with a “hot dad.” Katie says it was.
You know what’s even more difficult though?
Trying to throw a surprise birthday party while also trying to take care of your niece and your junkie brother!
From the minute we meet Seth (Dave Franco) it’s obvious that he’s on something. As soon as Katie orders him to roll up his sleeves, we know that this is not a new thing with Seth. Seth is a junkie, the type who shoots up in grocery store bathrooms and who buys his heroin from a man who lives in a yellow tent. Seth isn’t one of those charming junkies, either. He’s not Ewan McGregor in Trainspotting. He’s a manipulative, self-centered asshole who agrees to go to detox but only if Katie agrees to pay for it and not tell anyone that he’s using again. He’s the type who thinks nothing of begging his sister to leave the party that she’s spent weeks planning because he needs a ride to get one last hit before “getting clean.”
6 Balloons is a short film, one that takes place over the course of one long night. While the party goes on without her, Katie drives Seth around the city. Whenever Katie objects to what Seth is asking her to do, Seth guilts her. He continually assures her that he just needs to get high one last time and then he’ll be able to do detox. Meanwhile, Seth’s daughter sits in her car seat and begs to be taken home.
The acting is okay. Both Dave Franco and Abbi Jacobson are best known for their comedic work so it’s interesting to see them taking on such dramatic roles here. At the same time, it sometimes seems like both of them are trying too hard. The same could be said of 6 Balloons. This is a film that could have used a little dark humor. Instead, it’s relentlessly grim and serious and, as a result, a bit of a chose to sit through. For a 70 minute film, 6 Balloons seems to go on forever.
The problem with films about junkies is that, for the most part, hardcore junkies are dull people and not much fun to be around. Christiane F, Trainspotting and several of the films influenced by them dealt with this problem by featuring a propulsive soundtrack and some imaginative cinematography. (Trainspotting also wisely devoted more screen time to Mark and Sick Boy than to Spud. Just imagine how difficult it would be to watch Trainspotting if the entire film had centered on Spud getting high and crawling underneath cars.) With its hand-held camerawork and it’s subdued soundtrack, 6 Balloons takes more of a documentary approach. The film will leave you with no doubt that heroin is bad and it’s not good to be an enabler but, at the same time, it’ll probably also inspire you to glance at the time and ask yourself, “Is this thing over yet?”