This new Steven Soderbergh picture makes the most of untrained actors in depicting blue-collar ennui in a Ohio small town.
Bubble is getting plenty of notice for its simultaneous opening on pay-cable TV and in the Landmark Theater chain, just days before a release on dvd, boosted by HDNet. The director of Traffic and Erin Brockovich returns to his low-budget roots that may alienate him from some viewers and definitely from theater owners as the film "markets" itself without the publicity of something like an "Ocean's Eleven."
Martha, played by Debbie Doebereiner, is a chubby, early middle-aged redhead who toils at a small doll factory. Besides caring at home for her ill father (Omar Cowan), she has become friends with early twenty-something Kyle (Dustin Ashley).
The screenplay by Coleman Hough provides conflict for Martha from the cute, flirtatious Rose (Misty Wilkins), who becomes a temp in the workplace. Martha will agree to watch Rose's young daughter, though she's not happy with the young woman's lifestyle, which includes dating Kyle.
A tragedy will ensue after Martha feels the brunt of the troubles between Rose and her daughter's father and, though the town's investigator (Decker Moody) has narrowed down the suspects, one shouldn't be in the dark about who committed the violent act.
To his credit, Soderbergh plumbs his craftmanship well, doubling as Peter Andrews, his lensing nom de plume. He understands the way his characters handle the emptiness of life and becoming unhinged, obviously without the nuance of a professional feel for dramatic situations from the mundane. Some may find the last act to be less than satisfying from the contemplation of the motivation behind the unsettling events. Yet, from lives of quiet desperation amid the desolation comes something devious and strangely affecting.
If many casual observers didn't know a prolific filmmaker made Bubble, they might think it's from a first-timer. Maybe the lives of Doebereiner, Ashley, and Wilkins (in actuality they are a food chain manager, a student, and a beauty salon worker, respectively) are more involving in real-life than Soderbergh projects, but the bland is elevated from pretentiousness in a manner that is effective no matter how or where it is seen. Even if this minimalist effort shot on high-definition video is more ideally suited to home viewing with the prospects of theatrical distribution and viewing getting better for small, deadpan ones like this.