Blowing up the Bubble


The window between theatrical release and DVD release is closing rapidly. Director Steven Soderbergh’s Bubble is the first in a series of six of his films that will follow a theatrical debut with a DVD release four days later. The films also will be available on pay-per-view cable.

But is Bubble any good? It’s very good. Did it require a theatrical release at all before hitting DVD? Well, given the stigma of “straight to video,” I would say yes. Could they have waited a couple of months before putting out the DVD? Probably, but no harm done.

Soderbergh has assembled an interesting cast of unknowns to tell a tragic story about, of all things, a doll factory. Debbie Doebereiner, a former KFC manager, is terrific as Martha, a doll-face painter who has a crush of sorts on her co-worker Kyle (an appropriately sullen Dustin Ashley). When an attractive new worker (Misty Wilkins) shows up, a strange love triangle forms between them. The performers are excellent, and I’d be interested in seeing them in other projects.

Bubble unfolds in interesting, unexpected ways, and Soderbergh employs a minimalist technique that he can’t really put to good use in, say, the Ocean’s Eleven movies. Yes, the whole production is a bit of a stunt as far as current distribution standards go, but this movie is compelling, and if they get better from here, No. 6 in the series should be a mindblower.

As for supplemental features, the DVD is no rush job. There are a couple of shorts that put the spotlight on the unknown cast (in one, for instance, Doebereiner visits her KFC and promises signed DVDs for everybody). Also, commentaries from Soderbergh and from the cast shed plenty of light on how this unique project came together.