Set in the unusual surroundings of a doll manufacturing factory, Bubble breaks many rules. Not so much in its subject matter, but in its choice of actors and its choice of distribution. Bubble is a new release, by director Steven Soderbergh, known for his blockbuster hits Oceans 11, 12 and Traffic. Despite the credentials, one should not expect any appearances by George Clooney or any Hollywood megastar. Each character is essentially nameless, completely new to the film industry. Soderbergh returns to the gritty nature of previous films like Sex Lies and Videotape to make a plain move about people in strange, yet fascinating circumstances. The first of what is to be a series of five films to be delivered in the unorthodox method of a simultaneous release on television (Mark Cuban's HD films), traditional theaters and within days on DVD, this movie breaks a written code among the cinema industry that advises a film release, a lengthy window till DVD and an even lengthier window to the television audience. Theater owners are up in arms claiming that this is the onset of what will eventually bankrupt movie theaters and leave only those whose insatiable lust for overpriced greasy popcorn their only impetus for attending the megaplex.
The story begins with a unique love triangle. Martha, a dead ringer for the next Kathy Bates, and Kyle, a mousy man-child in his twenties, work together in the doll factory when a new employee Rose shows up. She is young, plain, and soft spoken, Kyle takes and interest in Rose. The frumpy, older Martha (who previously worked as a Kentucky Fried Chicken Manager, prior to her work on screen) begins to show signs of slight jealousy. It is clear that Martha sees Kyle as both a son that needs nurturing but also a strange sexual intrigue exists to where Kyle is absolutely oblivious too. It is completely obvious that all the characters are in no way actors, and that seems almost charming and realistic. The dialogue occasionally drags, but like any real relationship there are awkward pauses and discussions about pointless topics.
After a violent confrontation with Rose's ex-husband, the scene changes to the next morning where it is discovered that Rose has been murdered. The rest of the film becomes a police procedural attempting to discover the motive and the assailant that perpetrated the deed. The mystery is by no means complex and the resolution comes far too quickly leaving the viewer waiting for at least one more twist to set things in perspective. There is no true explanation, no convenient monologue to explain the actions of the murder. The culprit is obvious, the method is obvious, and where the mystery arrives is exactly why the murder needed to take place at all.
Ex-Guided By Voices musician Robert Pollard wrote the soundtrack for the film, but it is far from a traditional soundtrack. The soft strumming merely accents the scenery. It does not serve to build the tension or intensify any of the scenes. Pollard allegedly submitted 47 songs for the film (no surprise there), but the music is used sparsely and appropriately.
If this is, indeed, a new wave of film distribution, I think it could prove valuable for smaller important films. Let the Googoplex have the CGI popcorn movies that will pull in millions based purely on the yokels who "like seein' stuff blown up good", but maybe having a way for independent films to see the light of day to a larger audience will slowly turn the tide from plot less sequels and superhero hijinks.
- Travis Hutzell | 2006-01-30