blogging by Andrew Wickliffe

Bubble (2005, Steven Soderbergh)

I’m not sure who’s odder, Soderbergh for making it or Coleman Hough for “writing” it. Since much of the actual scene content is improvised, I think I’m going to have to go with Soderbergh. Bubble leaves one with quite a few thoughts–especially if the viewer knows the cast is nonprofessional and turn in better performances than professionals and if the viewer also knows the story behind the film’s release (it was a simultaneous theatrical, DVD, and cable release)–but the primary thought is about Soderbergh. He’s an odd duck. There’s no better description.

Bubble is exceptional because I’ve never seen a film change so much. It’s only seventy-three minutes long and for the first thirty, I wasn’t sure. The great experiment (also from Soderbergh’s perspective, as he’s planning on doing more of these small films with nonprofessionals across America) was failing. It’s a beautiful looking film–Soderbergh shot it in digital Panavision, it’s got a great score and perfect sound design–but it doesn’t work. Then, all of a sudden, it works. When the film synopsis first appeared, it played up the mystery angle (undoubtedly for the theater-goers) and once the mystery shows up, Bubble comes together. But calling the film a mystery would be misleading. Bubble is a film about nothing, where not much happens. Given how much was out of Soderbergh’s control–the improvised scenes, the location shooting–it’s amazing he pulled it off. Unfortunately, once a film becomes so finely tuned, one or two things can knock it down from the perfection pedestal. In Bubble’s case, one is the end credit sequence (stills of doll factory rejects–Bubble finally becomes a “Steven Soderbergh” film instead of a… film). But, more importantly, there’s a shovel scraping against concrete and Soderbergh didn’t cut right after the shovel left ground. Really.

The nonprofessional cast is fantastic, with the best performance being from Debbie Doebereiner, who’s the lead. Second best is the police detective, Decker Moody. The other two really good ones are Dustin Ashley as the male lead and Kyle Smith, who’s only got two scenes, but one of them–between him and Moody–is amazing.

I frequently forget about Soderbergh. I think it’s because he’s not one of those one-a-year guys. He needs to do more films.



Directed by Steven Soderbergh; written by Coleman Hough; director of photography, Peter Andrews; edited by Mary Ann Bernard; music by Robert Pollard; produced by Gregory Jacobs; released by Magnolia Pictures.

Starring Debbie Doebereiner (Martha), Dustin James Ashley (Kyle), Misty Dawn Wilkins (Rose), Omar Cowan (Martha’s father), Laurie Lee (Kyle’s mother) and David Hubbard (pastor).

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