The Black Balloon Bursts

March 11, 2008


Speaking of bubbles, sorry to burst your’s about new Aussie ‘masterpiece’ “The Black Balloon”. Australian film Industry potente’s and power brokers look away, look away… as another darling of your’s faces the poison pen of Idea Fix.

I shouldn’t be too harsh. It is a film debut competently directed by Elissa Down, well shot, some nice thesp turns, the usual complements. But again the film is like a public service message for appreciating the plight of mentally disabled people. I mean what is up with all this? Last year it was difficult parents, now difficult mentally handicapped siblings? Please…

Anyway here’s the story: Thomas is an army brat who moves to a new town with his Dad, Mom and brother Charlie who has Down Syndrome. Charlie is a royal pain in the ass who clearly should be in a home at least a few days a week, to give his family a rest. But no… this family decides to live a normal life with this poor fellow, whose favourite activities include banging a spoon all day long, shitting himself and rubbing it into carpet and wanking at the dinner table when guests are over. Thomas likes Jackie, played by hottie Gemma Ward and somehow their blossoming love affair seems to always involve invites for Charlie to come along and fuck things up. That’s it really. There a scene at the end where the two brothers reconcile after a big fight post Thomas’ birthday dinner wank-a-thon in front of Jackie. Its also implied that Charlie can control his moods and acting out when it pleases him and that he does these things to fuck with his brother. Charming and not so PC…

Again the film is supposed to be some PC examination about respect for the mentally disabled but the film actually makes you dislike Charlie. It’s pretty clear to all concerned (including the audience) they/we would be happier if Charlie was in a home sometimes and taken out on weekends or whenever. Like Romulus and Home Song Stories, the film works subconsciously against its PC message about multiculturism in the aforementioned films and then here with the mentally disabled.

Don’t get me wrong you could make a great film about the sad reality of mental disability or handicaps. The recent Diving Bell and The Butterfly is a fine example. How does the world appear to mentally handicapped persons? Why do they behave in such ways that seem so foreign to us? etc. These could all make fascinating cinematic topics for mainstream, indy or even avant garde works. But the Black Balloon is not such a film. It glosses over Charlie’s perspective and just presents him as a burden and nuisance to all around him. An object of sickly charity.

The film is essentially a romance and just when it just looks like Gemma Ward’s pants are coming off and Thomas is going to get it on… in comes Charlie like David Walliam’s Nah Nah Nah Little Britain character. I mean it gets on your nerves. I found myself laughing at the film in some unfunny moments. Cant they just get away from this guy, snog, smoke weed, fuck, drive around…you know act like normal teens?

Thomas is blond blue eyed handsome and played well by Rhys Wakefield, his character hates Charlie through most of the movie but learns inexplicably to love his shit smearing ways in the end. Luke Ford is blond blue eyed handsome and does an impressive job playing the difficult Charlie, going after Dan Wylie’s crown as best actor to play an award attracting retard in Australia cinema and theatre. Gemma Ward is blond blue eyed and attractive and pretty good in the film, but her character is, unfortunately, one dimensional. I am sick to death of Australian female characters either being saints or whores. How about a little depth to her like in Thomas’ character? Its insulting to most female actors in Australia. Women are neither wholly good or evil so lets see some depth people.

The main point of my critique though is, like Romulus or Home Songs, who wants to watch such family difficulties on a fun night out at the movies? Surely we must get off this PC public service message trip in Australian movies and deliver real, authentic, entertaining and daring cinema again in this country.

Next Aussie major release Hey, Hey, Its Esther Blueberger. A coming of Age story about a young Jewish girl growing up in a snotty public school. A good teen public service message about fitting in and accepting everybody for who they are. Need I say more…?

Fuck it here’s a shot of Gemma Ward on zee Red Carpet. She could have a good acting career ahead of her.


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