Review: Bubble

Bubble oozes an anonymous contempt sadly consistent with Steven Soderbergh’s post-Limey artistic output.

Photo: Magnolia Pictures

Oozing an anonymous contempt sadly consistent with Steven Soderbergh’s post-Limey artistic output, Bubble—the first of the director’s six reported high-definition video projects to be released in conjunction with HDNet Films—is essentially an American backwoods remake of Mike Leigh’s Vera Drake. The setting and names are changed, but the derisive song remains the same. Leigh at least powerfully evoked his eponymous character’s crisis of spirit via a superb single-take close-up, but the best that Soderbergh can do is plop his protagonist, Martha (Debbie Doebereiner), in a surreal-on-a-Sunday cathedral and turn up the angelic brights to blinding. To be fair, Martha isn’t a Drakeish martyr. She’s merely trying to maintain an upset status quo. Rose (Misty Dawn Wilkins) is the interloper who treads on Martha’s territory, a young, attractive hire at an Ohio doll factory who garners the romantic attentions of fortysomething Martha’s twentysomething best friend Kyle (Dustin James Ashley). Soderbergh and screenwriter Coleman Hough add a few intriguing shades to the trio—their interactions play less as a love triangle than as a metaphor-heavy allegory of city-mouse/country-mouse generational encroachment. Yet the characters’ motivations and actions are finally more vague than ambiguous (befitting Soderbergh’s misguided sense of what elements make an art film) and coupled with the dialogue’s halting, affected rhythms (the utterances of the Podunk prole as interpreted by the Los Angelean bourgeoisie) Bubble ultimately feels as empty and soulless as one of the omnipresent plastic playthings that act as its dead-eyed Greek chorus.

 Cast: Debbie Doebereiner, Dustin James Ashley, Misty Dawn Wilkins, Omar Cowan, Laurie Lee, David Hubbard, Kyle Smith, Decker Moody  Director: Steven Soderbergh  Screenwriter: Coleman Hough  Distributor: Magnolia Pictures  Running Time: 72 min  Rating: R  Year: 2005  Buy: Video

Keith Uhlich

Keith Uhlich is a writer living in Brooklyn. His work has been published in The Hollywood Reporter, BBC, and Reverse Shot, among other publications. He is a member of the New York Film Critics Circle.

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