Review

Bubble Review

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Jan 27, 2006 | 5:02am EST

It wouldn't be inaccurate to call Bubble--Soderbergh's latest filmmaking experiment--the anti-Ocean's Eleven. With nary a neon light complicated heist or marquee-level star in sight Bubble is a small intimate story about three doll factory workers in a bleak Ohio town. Forty-something Martha (Debbie Doebereiner) whose only family is her aging dependent father has found a friend in co-worker Kyle (Dustin James Ashley) a shy young man barely out of his teens. Kyle depends on Martha for a ride to work and Martha depends on Kyle for companionship; theirs is an uneasy relationship but it works. That is until the advent of pretty devil-may-care single mother Rose (Misty Dawn Wilkins). Her unsettling impact on Kyle and Martha's lives is compounded by a shocking murder and when the facts come to light it becomes clear that the status quo is gone for good. All three of Bubble's stars are non-professional actors from the same Ohio hamlet where the movie was filmed. Their relative inexperience lends itself well to the film's slice-of-life nature; glib shiny Hollywood types could never have been as convincingly real as these ordinary folks from the Heartland. With no prior work to compare their performances to it's difficult to say how far against type Doerbereiner Ashley and Wilkins are playing but all three inhabit their roles with a committed earnestness too often missing in mainstream films. Doerbereiner sells Martha's instant jealousy of the younger more confident Rose with a single narrowed glance and the halting rhythm of Ashley and Wilkins' awkward date-night conversation is almost painfully realistic. If at times Bubble seems more like a documentary than a drama it's thanks to all three stars' heartfelt performances. Shot in high-definition and released virtually simultaneously in theaters on cable TV and on DVD Bubble is being hailed as the first of a new breed of independent films--so it's hardly surprising to find Steven Soderbergh behind the camera. The director of sex lies and videotape has never been one to shy away from a filmmaking challenge and Bubble is no exception. Using long silences and meaningful close-ups Soderbergh deftly conveys the lives of quiet desperation led by his characters. And his factory footage reveals a fascination for the matter-of-fact processes behind even the most whimsical of consumer goods; watching the casual mass production of doll body parts is funny and disconcerting at the same time. That dichotomy characterizes much of Bubble--Soderbergh provides moments of humor but it's the type of laughter that leaves you thinking not slapping your knees.

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