Steven Soderbergh has enjoyed numerous high points in his career. He has been credited for helping to renew the interest in independent film with the success of SEX, LIES AND VIDEOTAPE. He is also the first director in decades to earn two Academy Award nominations in one year (2000) for ERIN BROCKOVICH and TRAFFIC, earning the statue for the latter. In recent years, he has had popular success with the remake of OCEAN'S ELEVEN and its sequel. With BUBBLE, which played the festival circuit in 2005, he is attempting to spark a revolution in the way movies are distributed. The film is one of the first to open in theaters with its premiere on cable television and release on DVD days later.
So, is BUBBLE worth all the fuss? It's definitely a small film and one that calls to mind the director's quirky 1996 film SCHIZOPOLIS. BUBBLE is set on the border of West Virginia and Ohio and most of the action unfolds either at an understaffed doll making factory or in the local environs. There are essentially three main characters, all portrayed by non-professional actors. Martha (Debbie Doebereiner) is a thirtysomething redhead who takes care of her ailing father and earns her living assembling doll heads. In her spare time, she sews clothes for the dolls. Her best friend is Kyle (Dustin James Ashley), a sort of handsome twentysomething who also holds two jobs and lives in a trailer with his mother. The exact nature of their relationship is never spelled out. It would seem that Martha has more of an interest in Kyle than appears on the surface, but exactly how he feels is never explored.
One thing is certain, Martha feels threatened when a new worker, Rose (Misty Dawn Wilkins) is hired to help the factory meet a quota. Rose immediately sets her sights on Kyle. But she also has a lot of baggage, including a two year old daughter, an ex-boyfriend (K. Smith) and a habit of stealing things.
For about an hour, BUBBLE just follows the mundane lives of the characters. Although on paper it may sound dreadful, there is a hypnotic quality to it and I found myself engrossed in the work and lives of these characters. When a murder takes place -- and one can easily figure out who is the victim and who did the deed -- the film shifts a bit. The remainder of the film is a matter of identifying the killer -- who isn't even able to offer a cogent reason for its occurrence.
The three performers acquit themselves well enough. In addition to directing, Soderbergh has also served as cinematographer (using his alias of Peter Andrews) and editor (as Mary Ann Bernard). BUBBLE is an intriguing experiment as a film. The distribution method is a whole other animal and it remains to be seen just how that will affect the industry.
Rating: B+ MPAA Rating: R for some language Running time: 73 mins.