Earlier this week, I went to the Bijou (The University of Iowa’s indie/art film theater) to see Steven Soderbergh’s new film, Bubble. I’ve been a fan of his movies for a while (Erin Brockovich, Ocean’s 11, Ocean’s 12, Traffic, The Limey, and others) so I was expecting to enjoy this one as well. Outside of the film’s director, this is the first in a series of 6 that will be released simultaneously in theaters, on tv, and on DVD at the same time. That was probably the most intriguing part of this movie to me. Soderbergh and his team have decided to break the mold and try something a very different by doing this type of release. I don’t think I’m the only one, but I like the idea of being able to chose the medium and viewing atmosphere of a newly released film instead of having to wait months (years?) to catch a film I missed in the theaters on DVD. Many theaters have boycotted the release of this movie claiming that, “It’s the biggest threat to the viability of the cinema industry today,” which is pretty crazy. I say anything that gives a viewer more choices is ultimately good. I can make a pretty good hamburger, but that sure doesn’t keep me from going to McDonald’s every now and then.
Anyway, back to the movie. Based on past Soderbergh movies and this special multi-format release, I was looking forward to seeing this film. Well… I was pretty disappointed. Let me preface this with: I have unique taste in movies (my friends will agree with that statement). I don’t think that my taste in movies is really too far outside the norm though. I didn’t really like this movie. Maybe I built up my expectations too much. One of the things Soderbergh said that he wanted to do with this series of films is use local talent, and makes them really place-specific. That’s evident with this movie; it takes place at doll factory in a small midwestern town. It was obvious to me that the “local talent” weren’t the best actors. They weren’t horrible (I’ve seen much worse), but there were several times when you felt like you were watching some amateur film, or poorly scripted home movie. I remember reading that much of the script for Bubble was improvised. At times that point is painfully obvious. Given that the acting in this film is a little below the mark, I can get by it. Like I said, I’ve seen much worse. That’s not the only area that this film falls short. The shooting also leaves a little bit to be desired. Again there were places where I wondered if I was watching a professionally produced film because it sure felt like I was watching a shaky shot that someone had made in their back yard with their wal-mart tripod. I like how Soderbergh shoots his films. He knows how to technically put a film together (quick shots in O11, the different use of colors in Traffic), but this movie just feels cheap. I can remember one shot in the front yard of the main characterâ€™s house that pans all the way around and has a little bump like someone accidently kicked the tripod as they were panning. Something like that just feels out of place in a professionally produced picture.
Setting aside the acting and shooting of this film. Yes, there were quite a few instances where both were lackluster, but both could be ignored. The story just wasn’t that great. I kept wondering to myself, when’s something going to happen? When is it going to start getting exciting? I knew (via the movie synopsis I’d read) that someone was going to get murdered, and knowing that it was only a 73 min. movie, I was getting anxious for it to happen (because I was getting bored with the poor improv acting?). Well, somebody finally died, and guess what, the movie didn’t get much more exciting. In wondering why this movie is like this, I’ve wondered if maybe Soderbergh did all of this (poor acting, poor shooting, poor story/plot???) on purpose to really hit home the slow simple life of the smaller midwestern town where this movie is set. But why would he? If that really was his intention, it really doesn’t add anything to the movie. It takes quite a bit away from it.
So… an interesting (and overdue?) distribution concept. I just hope the next film in this series has better actors/story/filming! I don’t think I’ll be able to sit through 6 Bubbles! I like being able to watch a newly released movie in whatever format I chose, but If had been watching this on TV, I think I would have changed the channel.