January 30, 2006


The locations and scenarios of Steven Soderbergh's Bubble feel like a world that I know. Specifically the world of Bubble is the world of Rust Belt America, and the hopeless monotony of their day-to-day lives stirred up many of my own memories of living in Rochester, not too far from whatever small Ohio town this story takes place in.
The characters range from a perfect snapshot of the people I knew from that world to utterly ridiculous concoctions whose reactions I can't imagine coming from any member of the human race. The interplay between Soderbergh's two impulses is highly unnerving; every time I began to identify, I was shocked by gross displays of apathy or tacit acceptance over revelations that deserve the loudest possible reaction.
This strange dichotomy surfaces in the filmmaking itself. There are no plot twists, no revelations. It is a straightforward mystery in which virtually no effort is made to conceal the culprit. Yet the story is almost entirely told in the facial reactions and the meaning between words. I can't recall a single forthright line of dialog in the entire film, yet the meaning was never less than clear. What surprises there are come from characters that brazenly defy and subdue whatever human impulses they might have. When those impulses do manage to bubble to the surface, the consequences are tragic.
The final shot sums up the film, and the dark dreary world that creates creatures like these. The cast is reportedly composed of local non-professionals, and despite the skilled performances over the course of the film, that shot made me believe it. As Bubble makes clear, the Rust Belt is more than just an economic region. It's a state of mind. ()


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