Friday, January 27, 2006

Bubble - Movie Review

Bubble 2005

Pity Steven Soderbergh. Oscar winning director, able to assemble high powered all star casts with a touch of his assistant’s speed dial – and still he’s worried about becoming complacent or stale as an artist. Pity the director who doesn’t test his own talent now and again. And finally, pity the current state of cinema and remember the halcyon glory days of being able to enjoy a film in a real movie theatre with the full big screen treatment. With his latest experiment, Steven may actually be revolutionizing the movie industry in the biggest way since Al Jolson opened his blackface lips and belted out “Mammy!”

For those of you not in the know, this weekend marked the theatrical opening of “Bubble”, Steven Soderbergh’s latest, and this coming week you will be able to LEGALLY rent or purchase it on DVD, and view or download it via the web. And it’s just the start of a six picture deal Mr. Soderbergh has with HDNet Films to produce, shoot and release high-definition digital films in such a fashion. All this might be a fancy and gimmicky way to pitch the picture, but honestly, who besides New Yorkers and Los Angelinos really gives a shit about marketing ploys? And who really goes to see Steven Soderbergh movies that don’t feature Julia Roberts? Well, we do. And surprise, surprise, this one is quite the little gem! (Probably due to the absence of a certain horse jawed actress.)

Steven is nothing if not ambitious in his neurotic pursuit of artistic variance. Since his blisteringly hot breakthrough with the Indy film festival scorcher “Sex, Lies and Videotape”, he has alternating his own brand of personal examinations into the lives of his subjects with glossier fare that reeks of “sell out” to lesser mortals. What he and his sometimes co-star, our pal George Clooney, have done for themselves harkens back to the great Burt Lancaster’s methodology. Star in a few potential blockbusters, film some mainstream “hot topic” fare, pick up a few Oscars – God willing – and then go film whatever the fuck you really want to work on to get your creative juices flowing.

Current legend has it, that Soderbergh ditched the typical urban locations, opted for low rent all the way, hunted out some non-professional actors, lied about his name knowing full well that only people who actually attend the Oscars could possibly recognize him – and quietly made this little pic for a mere pittance. Yet, unlike his muddled and lackluster “Full Frontal”, this flick actually works.

Bubble” tells the tale of a small town, barely able to support itself, and three of its inhabitants. One Martha, a middle aged hard working blue collar gal who takes care of her elderly father, enjoys her carbs and works at the nearby plastic doll factory. Her co-worker is an apparently sweetly laid back young man named Kyle who gladly accepts Martha’s friendship if it means a free ride to work. Into their time clock punching lifestyle enters a new employee. A young lady named Rose, who if this were a film noir of the 1940’s would have entered sucking on a ciggie, sporting a fabulous hat avec veil and sporting a sparkling ankle bracelet. But it ain’t. But she does have the right attitude! Soon, before you can say S-L-U-T! Rose is quietly charming Kyle away from his chatty fat friend and into her own world of trailer park trash, replete with two year old brat and violent ex-boyfriend. What happens one night during Kyle and Rose’s first official date is the center of this film . . . and for the sake of those of you who are busy downloading, renting or God forbid, actually planning on seeing it in a theatre the way the movie Gods intended it to be seen – whew! – where were we? Oh yeah, don’t worry we won’t spoil any surprises.
Suffice to say, that what Soderbergh has done is a clever, entertaining and certainly at a trim 73 minute running time, very concise little potboiler that eschews Hollywood glamour for Peoria drammer. The three central leads are indeed played by “un-professionals”, and they are quite fine in their individual performances. We don’t think that Brad Pitt or Angelina Jolie should necessarily worry that they will be stealing any of their upcoming starring roles, post baby, but they acquit themselves nicely. Some critics have labeled their work extraordinary, and we agree in the sense that they could easily have been Community Theatre Clowns that risked blowing Steven’s little experiment to hell and back. But, we must protest that while we enjoyed their work – we realized that the crafty SS used all his cinematic know-how to frame the actors carefully, relying on perfectly timed reaction shots that registered little characterization and relied more on the inherit truthfulness of their off screen personas. This is not a film that relies on grand theatrics. It has a wonderfully cold quality that is perfectly in synch with digital film. Whatever may become of the future of film stock, digital film will never replace the “Silver Screen” quality of film that transcends the everyday and becomes a shimmering canvas for such visionary auteurs as Terrence Malick, Ang Lee, Francis Ford Coppola, Martin Scorsese to Ingmar Bergman and Robert Altman. But we digress.

Bubble” is a wonderful depiction of the inherit violence we are all capable of. A cautionary tale of petty jealousies, desires and egos. The reason it works so well, is that it is indeed a “Bubble” of sorts. These people are the backbone of a working society, and their immediate life stories are ones we recognize simply enough – even if the particulars may lie outside our own existence. We loved the cold, hard and yes, plastic look to the film. It may be a little too obvious in its trimmed down storytelling, but it never fails to entertain. For that we are eternally grateful to ole SS. Now, if the success of this film does indeed mean that we are entering a new age of home video overtaking a true movie going experience, we hope to live long enough to piss and spit on Steven’s grave! We hope against the potential mediocrity of the situation, that this is not the case. Bless you all!

Directed by Steven Soderbergh
Written by Coleman Hough

Dustin James Ashley as Kyle
Debbie Doebereiner as Martha
Misty Dawn Wilkins as Rose
Decker Moody as Police Inspector
Laurie Lee as Kyle’s Mother
Kyle Smith as Jake

Original Music by Robert Pollard
Cinematography by Peter Andrews (LIES! It’s really Steven Soderbergh under an alias!)
Film Editing by Mary Ann Bernard (LIES, PART TWO!! Again, it’s Steve. Mary Ann? What is he trying to tell us?)