When I was 16, I found the polaroid to the right in the desert. (Don’t ask me why I still have it because I have no idea. Look for me next season on A&E’s “Hoarders”.) When I look at it now, I can’t help but get the same feeling I did 12 years ago when I found it – An overwhelming creepy sense that something terrible happened to this jolly little man. Of course there’s no evidence to support this whatsoever. It’s just a picture of a mustachioed gentleman named Leland who’s stoked to be at an expo. It probably blew off his car’s dashboard and out the window and for a second, he was like “Aw man! My sweet-ass expo picture!” and then he never thought about it again. So why, even 12 years later, can I not get it out of my mind that this is someones “last known photo”? Because there’s just something hyper-real, intensely candid, and inherently depressing about polaroids, and finding a discarded one just makes your skin crawl. This uncomfortable feeling – the feeling that I’m seeing something I’m not supposed to see, regardless of its banality – is the feeling I had for the duration of Steven Soderbergh’s “Bubble”.
If you wanna get all fuckin’ artsy about it, you could say that Bubble is filmed exquisitely in the style of Italian neorealism. However, if your mouth isn’t currently full of Roberto Rossellini’s cock, you would just say that this movie was filmed on location in some super-depressing little podunk town using “real people” as opposed to professional actors. The effect is such that I had to keep reminding myself for the first half hour that this wasn’t a documentary. These “non-actor” actors are so convincing, so goddamned real, that I’m still – three days after watching this movie – trying to figure out if I liked it or not.
Let me put it this way: When you see a painting of a bowl of fruit that is almost photo-realistic, your first reaction is “Holy shit. That’s incredible”. You can’t help but admire the amazing talent and time and effort that went into creating it. But at the same time, it’s just a fucking bowl of fruit. I’ve seen a million bowls of fruit, none of them particularly interesting. Does the fact that an artist was able to perfectly recreate something so boring and ordinary somehow make it less boring and ordinary? I have no idea and that’s why I’m still on the fence about this movie.
The story is simple. Martha, an affable dumpy lady in her 40s, and Jake, a quiet awkward dude in his 20s, work together at a doll factory. Their friendship is about what you’d expect given the circumstances until one day, this skeezy broad named Rose gets hired and gums up the works with her shitty attitude and attraction to Jake. The morning after an awkward date, Rose turns up dead. From there on out, the movie is a quiet, subdued whodunnit.
So we’re back to the original question: Is this a good movie? I honestly don’t know. I will say this, though – Whatever it was that Steven Soderbergh set out to do with this film, it appears he did it perfectly. Whether you see it as an intriguing and ominous discarded polaroid or a boring-ass bowl of fruit is entirely up to you.
I’m gonna stop thinking about this and go watch Tokyo Gore Police again.