Hailed by many as a return to his indie roots, Steven Soderbergh’s Bubble is an intriguing little murder mystery/drama which peels back the comfort and routine of life in the heart of small town America. Set amongst the employees of a doll factory Bubble follows a triangular relationship between three of the factory’s employees: older Martha (Debbie Doebereiner), her younger friend Kyle (Dustin Ashley), and the new girl, Rose (Misty Wilkins) who causes somewhat of a stir in their affairs.
Certainly Bubble is a far cry from the high Hollywood drama of the Ocean’s series. Not only does Soderbergh use a non-professional cast but he also strips back the crew size and shooting schedule (and consequently the budget) to create an independent feature that plays somewhat like a documentary; blurring the boundaries of reality and fiction. The lives revealed onscreen feel completely authentic, in part due to much of the script being formed from the cast’s actual life experiences.
The film may be slow-burn but is engrossing in its detailed examination of the everyday. Who would’ve guessed, real life can be just as interesting as tales of high adventure! The factory in which many of the establishing shots are filmed becomes almost another character and lends something ominous to the feel of the film. Seeing the little parts of the dolls’ bodies being popped out of moulds and having facial features glued on is slightly creepy to watch but makes for compelling visual imagery nonetheless.
Bubble essentially develops the relationships of the three principals over the period of a week at the end of which a somewhat unexplained murder occurs. This is followed, in the latter part of the film, by a police investigation into the murder. Soderbergh wisely refrains from unnecessary exposition, leaving the audience to gauge to happenings, and the relationships form what plays out. There are no unnatural pieces of character development or intimacy built at an unrealistic pace. All is as it might be with a group of people had you been given hidden camera footage of them. Kudos has to go to the cast for a job well done, particularly when you find out how nervous they were. Much praise is deserved by both Steven and writer Coleman Hough for putting their trust (and creative material) in the hands of these non-professionals’ and for making the production process less intimidating than it might have been. Their trust was certainly rewarded.
Fans of independent cinema will enjoy Bubble, as will anyone who can appreciate the hidden drama in present in the happenings of the everyday.
DVD Info + Special Features
For me the special features on this Bubble DVD release were more than just an interesting addition to the feature. They actually give a quite a bit of context to the project and to Soderbergh’s aims with it. It turns out that Bubble is the first film in a series of 6 that he has signed up to do for a company called HD-Net utilising HD technology in the shooting as well as releasing simultaneously on DVD and in theatres.
Soderbergh had wanted to play out a ‘murder mystery’ story but in a micro-setting. Instead of high drama and big budget he set out to explore the telling of that kind of story in the lives of some very real feeling small town people. One technique that he and writer Coleman Hough use to achieve this is to outline to the cast what topics need to be covered in a given scene – or where it needs to go – and then let them create the dialogue in their own words, using their own stories as their character background. He even filmed using local people from the towns in which the film was shot. The result is spot on.
The director’s commentary has Steven Soderbergh being interviewed by Mark Romanek and is of interest even of what they’re saying often has no relevance to what you’re seeing onscreen. In fact I might even be tempted to just listen to the audio without watching. One of Romanek’s comments sums up some of the appeal of this film: he says that the emotional flatness produced by a cast who are not so much ‘acting out a script’ so much as just ‘talking to each other’ gives the audience greater scope to participate in the story that is unfolding rather than just watching a spectacle – which is what often occurs when viewing mainstream cinema. The cast commentary reveals the cast members to be – in personality – quite like their characters with Dustin often not speaking unless called upon, whilst Debbie talks away happily and Misty is quite cheeky. The three are guided in their commentary by writer Coleman Hough with whom they seem to have developed a good relationship. The making of featurette and the cast audition interviews gives us a good picture of how the production went from the point of view of these non-professionals.
Understanding the director’s aims, and also how raw the cast and screenplay were, went a good way to increasing my enjoyment of the film on the subsequent rewatch.
» Region 4 PAL
» Anamorphic Widescreen 16:9
» Language: English (Dolby Digital 3.0 or 2.0)
» Director’s commentary
» Actors’ commentary
» Deleted Scenes & Alternate ending
» Bursting the Bubble: making-of featurette
» Higher Definition: Steven Soderbergh Interview
» Finding the Cast: cast audition interviews
» Original Theatrical Trailer
Reviewed by: Jacob Powell
Rating: M – Contains offensive language
Duration: 98 mins
Genre: Indie Drama / Murder Mystery
Director: Steven Soderbergh (2005)
Actors: Debbie Doebereiner, Dustin Ashley, and Misty Wilkins.
Release Date: Available Now