Wednesday, February 08, 2006


Bubble (4/5)

One of the first shots in Bubble shows gravestones huddled around two American flags. The death of the American dream would be all but played out in art, if it wasn’t so damn relevant all the time.

Bubble begins with Martha and Kyle who work at a doll factory in a Southern Ohio town. Kyle lives with his mom and works two jobs to get by. Martha goes home to her bed ridden father she refuses to put into a nursing home. When a new factory worker, Rose, is hired a love triangle forms between the three. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that Martha has romantic feelings for Kyle, but she does become jealous when her only friend starts taking smoke breaks with someone else. The monotony of the small town is broken up—ever so slightly—by the murder of one of the factory workers.

Bubble has gotten more press for its release strategy than for the film itself. It is being released in theatres and DVD simultaneously. I have been on record as saying that I oppose this business model because it will hurt the theatre owners and continue the growing trend of people avoiding the movie theatres altogether. Although, I did see this on DVD because no one wanted to see this movie with me. Fine, I’m a hypocrite, so sue me (I’m in law school so I feel perfectly safe saying you can sue me, because I’m reasonably certain hypocrisy is not remedied by law).

What is more interesting than the business model is the experimental nature of the film. The director, Stephen Soderbergh, uses all digital film, actually shot the film in Ohio, and uses non-actors. The result is largely successful. And it's got a sweet trailer (

Each character seems numb. They blindly go through their daily routine unaware that anything exists outside of their job and the small circle of people they know. Kyle and Rose are probably in their mid-twenties—about the time when the feedom of teenage years quickly gives way to an ever decreasing number of options. Martha is at least forty, and has long given up thinking about life outside of the town. When Rose says that she wants to get away, Martha asks why with a puzzled look on her face.

The characters in Bubble show almost no emotion, even when the murder occurs. They’re completely numb. A part of that numbness transfers to the viewer, and it does become a little difficult to care about what happens to them. Maybe that’s the point of the film, but it also subdues some of the emotional resonance.

I went to college in a city in Southern Ohio so this film had a little more impact on me. It was odd living on a campus where the springtime landscapers made certain every flower and blade was just right, while the city around us looked like it was crumbling. There’s a lot of Ohio that feels as if all the brick and mortar has been torn down leaving only a steel skeleton. In Springfield, Ohio, where I lived, certain areas of the city had rows of large mansions that were either vacant or carved into separate apartments by a landlord. You could tell that the whole city collapsed when the factory jobs were shut down and eventually sent over seas.

Because it was filmed in Ohio Bubble does a great job of showing the flat landscape littered with barely running factories or barely standing houses. It’s a film that’s actually concerned with places that aren’t on one of the coasts. While I have no evidence to back this up, perhaps one of the reasons Hollywood is taking a hit is because people finally want to see themselves or people they know up on the screen. The average person gets enough fiction from the daily news, and the public wants to see something real from today’s artists. This doesn’t always mean a documentary (although documentaries and non-fiction literature are immensely popular these days), but it does mean that books, movies, and television will have to start viewing the world through the eyes of the average American.

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