REVIEW: Bubble (Stephen Soderbergh, 2006)

I was really wanting to like Bubble more than I did. A lot of the time I felt like it was very good, but also very unoriginal... but my mind was with thought processes going something like this, "I guess I expect too much from independent films, they can't all be entirely unique... but that's okay that this isn't, because most mainstream films that come out are copies of copies of copies... but that's not acceptable... so where do I stand on this?"

Bubble is the first of six films Steven Soderbergh is doing with HDNet with simlultaneous releases on all formats - Theatrical, home video (DVD, VHS, UHD etcetera,) Pay Per View and whatever else there may be. Not only is this an intriguing deal, Soderbergh is taking the opportunity to revive old ideas that would not before have been picked up, to experiment with new ways of making films and telling stories. As the first episode in the individually self-contained series of Americana, as Soderbergh puts it, Bubble will probably garner a higher appreciation once more films in this line are put out.

The production of the film is very respectable. Apparently the script was written in bare-bones fashion and the local actors were then allowed to find their way from beginning to middle to end through natural character progression. It's almost like a dramatic documentary when that aspect is considered. Some of the lines and shot choices also creatively present plot points - subtle character development and ultimately the main clues to the audience that our suspicions about of the characters are indeed truths.

So what will happen with the multiple format release? The film is still in its first week, so very soon it will be interesting to discover... Did more people take a night out to go see it on the big screen with a potentially disruptive audience and no special features? Did more choose to rent (like I did) or purchase? Did it even make any sort of impression? After all, it is a very low-profile film - possibly not the best way to get a reaction from moviegoers, but hey, what do I know about box office research? Maybe they're trying to go after more of the indepedent moviegoing crowd. Also, it is quite possible that as this six film series with HDNet continues, it will emerge into the public eye.

The story plays out as a simple murder case, from the characters meeting each other to the event itself and then finally to the conviction. In the progression, the philosophy of dishonesty shows itself, proving that even when hard evidence that leads to no other conclusion is considered, the killer still claims they have no idea why they are the ones taking the heat. This is not an extremely complex idea, so thankfully the film is short... but if it were longer, I would imagine there could have been a lot more done with it. Also, the doll factory did not seem to be used to its fullest extent. Sure, we saw a lot of eerie doll footage, particularly in the beginning and the end credits, but I felt there was a much deeper symbolism in the toil and just plain ol' creepiness of the dolls that could have been explored and related to the film's lukewarm examination of dishonesty - these dolls that are so easily made in such dank conditions often end up as treasured placeholders in childrens' lives.

The special features on the DVD are excellent, and provide not only a probing look into the creation of this film but also a great introduction to the idea of the six films. One of them, however, is an alternate ending to the film that shows us a complete departure from what I felt the rest of the film was going for... a medical personality disorder (where have I seen that before?) as opposed to denial.

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