Review: Bubble (2005)

A small town, a slow burn, and a mystery sounds like my type of movie!

Written By: Coleman Hough
Directed By: Steven Soderbergh

Bubble is a fascinating film, so fascinating that if one blinks they may miss the meticulous nuance that makes the film tick. The film isn’t your standard movie mystery, in that there’s never really a mystery. I can easily see why some would be put off by the pacing and the structure of Bubble. I, on the other hand, was enthralled with this film from the start. It is minimalist, maybe even neo-realist if that floats your boat, filmmaking that I found most entrancing. I didn’t have any expectations of Bubble prior to sitting down to watch the film. I’m glad that was the case, I fear that preconceived notions of the type of film Bubble wants to be would have distracted me from the wonderful little ticks of the film.

At the heart of Bubble are the three main characters; Rose, Martha, and Kyle. They are not professional actors, but I don’t think that matters in any larger sense. They fit the parts they are asked to play, that’s what mattered to me. In that regard all three actors; Misty Wilkins, Debbie Doebereiner, and Dustin James Ashley, give great performances. Although performance is a misnomer, as I’m not convinced they were performing as much as they were living. The three actors come from the area where the story takes place and they live the same downtrodden lives that their characters do. They don’t commit the exact actions that their characters do, but they know the life and the understand the hardship and the monotony of such a life.

The monotony of Bubble is what first grabbed my attention. Martha is a creature of habit, she lives her life the same way every day because it’s been ingrained in her. The same is true of Kyle, and it’s also true of Rose even if Kyle and Martha don’t see it. Rose is the instigator, the new blood to the group, and she scares Martha while enticing Kyle. Here is where the film could have faltered, the newness that Rose brings to the lives of Martha and Kyle could have been played up as a game changer. Luckily it isn’t, instead her arrival is played as an event that is to be expected. She may be new, she may scare Martha and she may entice Kyle, but it’s still going to be business as usual for those characters because to try to change would be more dangerous than anything else. Kyle is too timid to be affected by Rose. And while Martha commits an action that she wouldn’t usually have based on Rose’s presence, she quickly returns to her usual routine. None of the characters in Bubble know anything but the lives they have, their monotony is their existence and returning to that is as safe as wearing a cast iron shell to a fist fight.

The events of Bubble unfold in a pot boiling manner. The direction of Steven Soderbergh never impresses itself upon the story, but at the same time he leaves his indelible mark upon the picture. Mr. Soderbergh plays around with color and expectations that music may provide in a film such as Bubble in a very subtle manner. The slow burn approach lends itself to the monotonous tone, and it fits the title of the film. Bubble could mean any number of things, but for me it meant the top never popping open on the lives of the characters in this film. It does not happen in this film, and it may never happen in their lives. A great atrocity has just been committed, and yet at the end we see that things remain the same. Work goes on like usual, life maintains its monotonous pace because there is no escape from the monotony that these characters have enshrouded themselves with. They are forever trapped within the bubble of their existence.

Bubble isn’t a true mystery film, but it is very creepy. I don’t know if the intention behind those involved with Bubble was for the film to be read as a horror film. That element is present in the film, but not in the way that would seem outwardly obvious. The horror of Bubble isn’t in a murder or the perpetrator of the crime, or in the mystery of the crime. The horror in Bubble is in the return to normalcy that so quickly happens and in the suffocating repetitiousness of the lives of the people portrayed in Bubble. When Bubble had finished I had to take a deep breath just to remind myself that I was free and that I could breathe. It was a long and hearty breath, the type necessary to cleanse my system of the monotonous horror of Bubble.

Rating:

***1/2

Cheers,
Bill

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