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In a small North American town, the middle age Martha and the twenty and something years old Kyle work in a doll factory. Martha nurses her old father and usually gives a lift to Kyle, who works also in the night-shift cleaning a shovel factory. When the young single mother Rose is hired to work with airbrush and stencils in the factory, she is befriended by Kyle and Martha. In a Friday night, Rose hires Martha to work as babysitter of her two year old daughter Jesse and Martha finds that she is dating Kyle. Rose returns back home early after stealing Kyle's savings, and Martha witnesses Jesse's father Jake accusing Rose of stealing weed and money from his house. On the next morning, Rose is found strangled in her house and Detective Don Taylor interviews Jake, Kyle and Martha along his investigation. Written by
Claudio Carvalho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
The lives of small-town workers, as insular as the title suggests, and the way they interact with one another unaware of these ties, real or imagined or wished for, is dissected in Steven Soderbergh's de-glamorized little experiment of a movie. It probably won't cause a big splash -- it's not meant to -- but to anyone aware of its existence, it should be seen, even when the experience may not be the most satisfactory.
Martha and Kyle work dead-end jobs in a doll factory. Nothing important happens to them, at least, not as envisioned by us, who may -- whether we're aware of it or not -- have better lives than they do. Martha dreams of going to Aruba for a vacation one day, Kyle wants to save money for a car. The exchange of small talk is a big part of these people's lives, a way of them to have someone who is there, who will listen, even when they may not respond back, or even care.
While I know it's been done before, I was surprised at how authentic the ad hoc dialog was: I felt myself thinking, I've had these exchanges of thoughts, dreams, experiences, even over coffee and fast food. I may not live in a small town like the nameless place in Ohio but I'm not that different from these people, and after all, aren't we all looking for something better? Context doesn't change things, it just places them in a different locale.
Martha and Kyle may not know it, but they have a lot more shared history together but because it's so mundane it looks irrelevant. How many times have we gone to lunch with co-workers every day on the clock at 1:00 PM, spoken the same small words while ordering the same food and beverages, and one day, when this doesn't happen, we feel lost? It's what happens to Martha at the arrival of the monkey-wrench that Rose represents.
Rose has a murky past that gets hinted at throughout her brief participation, and her sole presence is enough to cause the subtlest of shifts within Martha who continually watches her, maybe even without knowing it. I know people like Martha. They don't know you and they don't want to get to know you since you are the implied enemy, and they hint at only a veiled animosity while going through these practiced motions of social politeness and a willingness to "help". Rose, too, knows she is not liked by Martha and is also concealing it all under a Mona Lisa smile.
After all, Rose is the new girl, the one who is different, the one who -- in Martha's words -- scares her. But why? Because Rose will, in Martha's world, become a distraction to her perfectly organized world of small actions and repetitive complacency. Rose is restless, and that kind of people attract others who may have been sleepwalking through life and give them a possibility of change. Kyle is attracted to change and drops hints here and there. Now, whether they involve Rose or not is for his character to disclose to us, and even then, it doesn't matter if he does that or not: the story of BUBBLE isn't dependent on a fixed outcome because it's a story about real people, and their stories are less drama-heavy, less swooning, and entirely dependent on personal choice.
Had this been a Hollywood version, Martha would not have been the moon-faced woman we see here (which we've seen in any Walgreen's) but Kathy Bates. Kyle's and Rose's date would have had more interaction, sensual flirtation, the inevitable exchange of a romanticized kiss instead of this bland, awkward chit-chat in a sad bar. And even when it would have ended in non-chemistry as it does, there would have been more glitz and glamor. Here, it's again, just two people who have little in common past the initial spark, again sharing their hopes and dreams with some alcohol.
I know this type of movie has been done before, but BUBBLE impressed me and is still growing on me. These are relationships that are closer than the characters involved would like to admit to, and the actions or presence of one will dictate how the other will react. Martha is at the center of this triangle and is probably the most aware of the three: she's not quite there, but maybe a little too there at the same time. And that makes her story, and that of BUBBLE, so resonant.
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