The first of six upcoming hi-def movies from Steven Soderbergh (all of which will be simultaneously released by HDNet films in theaters, on TV, and on DVD), Bubble is a far cry from Full Frontal, the director’s previous (awful) collaboration with screenwriter Coleman Hough. Set in small town Ohio and populated by a cast of nonprofessional actors, this frequently bewitching whodunit – about the murder of a doll factory’s newest employee – creates the beguiling impression of a world slightly, dangerously askew even as it sporadically assumes a condescending stance toward its low-income locale (characterized by banal donut shops, fluorescent lit-factory floors, and wood-paneled mobile homes). At the heart of this bizarre little story is Martha (Debbie Doebereiner), a roly-poly middle-aged woman whose friendship with young co-worker Kyle (Dustin James Ashley) is threatened by the arrival of somewhat aloof single-mom Rose (Misty Dawn Wilkins), leading to a crime and investigation that Soderbergh slyly unfurls in ambiguous, multiple-interpretation fashion. Was the killer compelled by the divine command of the Lord, or by the unshakable allure of a paycheck? To the creepily efficient film’s credit, even the chorus of onlooking dead-eyed dolls refuses to burst Bubble’s central mystery.
(2005 New York Film Festival)