Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...
Steve Carell Redefined His Career By Surprising Everyone in 'Foxcatcher' Steve Carell Redefined His Career By Surprising Everyone in 'Foxcatcher' Watch: Ellar Coltrane on the 'Brutal' Experience of Watching 'Boyhood' After Living It Watch: Ellar Coltrane on the 'Brutal' Experience of Watching 'Boyhood' After Living It Mortem Tyldum Explains Why Alan Turing Was the Right Subject For His First English-Language Film Mortem Tyldum Explains Why Alan Turing Was the Right Subject For His First English-Language Film Why Richard Linklater’s ‘Boyhood’ is a Great, Unexpected Awards Season Frontrunner Why Richard Linklater’s ‘Boyhood’ is a Great, Unexpected Awards Season Frontrunner Watch: Patricia Arquette on Stripping Away Ego to Get to the Heart of 'Boyhood' 
Watch: Patricia Arquette on Stripping Away Ego to Get to the Heart of 'Boyhood' 'Whiplash' Breakout Miles Teller Has Officially Arrived 'Whiplash' Breakout Miles Teller Has Officially Arrived Michael Keaton Dug Deep to Deliver the Best Performance of His Career in 'Birdman' Michael Keaton Dug Deep to Deliver the Best Performance of His Career in 'Birdman' Mark Ruffalo Explains Why Dave Schultz Was One of the Most Complex Characters He's Ever Played Mark Ruffalo Explains Why Dave Schultz Was One of the Most Complex Characters He's Ever Played Keira Knightley on 'The Imitation Game' and Why Awards Matter Keira Knightley on 'The Imitation Game' and Why Awards Matter Katherine Waterston On the Good and Bad of Working With Paul Thomas Anderson Katherine Waterston On the Good and Bad of Working With Paul Thomas Anderson Emma Stone Proved She Can Do It All in 2014 Emma Stone Proved She Can Do It All in 2014 Jon Stewart is Off to a Strong Start with Directorial Debut 'Rosewater' Jon Stewart is Off to a Strong Start with Directorial Debut 'Rosewater' Awards Spotlight: Don't Be Surprised When J.K. Simmons Takes Home Oscar Awards Spotlight: Don't Be Surprised When J.K. Simmons Takes Home Oscar Jessica Chastain Proved She's a Total Chameleon in 2014 Jessica Chastain Proved She's a Total Chameleon in 2014 Laura Poitras on 'CITIZENFOUR,' The Most Dangerous Work She's Ever Done Laura Poitras on 'CITIZENFOUR,' The Most Dangerous Work She's Ever Done Jake Gyllenhaal On Doing Very Bad Things in 'Nightcrawler' Jake Gyllenhaal On Doing Very Bad Things in 'Nightcrawler' Channing Tatum Explains Why It Took Him Eight Years to Have the ‘Balls’ for ‘Foxcatcher’ Channing Tatum Explains Why It Took Him Eight Years to Have the ‘Balls’ for ‘Foxcatcher’ Ethan Hawke Didn't Know That Richard Linklater Would Bring 'Boyhood' Home So Well Ethan Hawke Didn't Know That Richard Linklater Would Bring 'Boyhood' Home So Well Jack O'Connell Explains What It’s Like to Work For Angelina Jolie Jack O'Connell Explains What It’s Like to Work For Angelina Jolie 'Red Army' Director Gabe Polsky Reveals the Story of Soviet Hockey 'Red Army' Director Gabe Polsky Reveals the Story of Soviet Hockey How Felicity Jones is Getting Noticed This Awards Season How Felicity Jones is Getting Noticed This Awards Season Edward Norton Goes Full-Blown For Alejandro González Iñárritu in 'Birdman' Edward Norton Goes Full-Blown For Alejandro González Iñárritu in 'Birdman' How Eddie Redmayne Transformed His Body and Mind to Become Stephen Hawking How Eddie Redmayne Transformed His Body and Mind to Become Stephen Hawking Oscar Isaac Explains How 'A Most Violent Year' Fits With His Other Roles Oscar Isaac Explains How 'A Most Violent Year' Fits With His Other Roles Timothy Spall Almost Went Mad to Play 'Mr. Turner' For Mike Leigh Timothy Spall Almost Went Mad to Play 'Mr. Turner' For Mike Leigh 'Gone Girl' Composer Atticus Ross: How to Write a Score Without Seeing the Film 'Gone Girl' Composer Atticus Ross: How to Write a Score Without Seeing the Film How to Play James Brown, By Chadwick Boseman: Study the Man, Listen to Drake How to Play James Brown, By Chadwick Boseman: Study the Man, Listen to Drake Chris Rock on Why Making 'Top Five' Was a No-Brainer Chris Rock on Why Making 'Top Five' Was a No-Brainer Steve James and Chaz Ebert Tackled 'Life Itself' Steve James and Chaz Ebert Tackled 'Life Itself' Bennett Miller Explains Why He Had to Make 'Foxcatcher' Bennett Miller Explains Why He Had to Make 'Foxcatcher' How Do You Roll Six Movies Into One? 'Wild Tales' Director Damian Szifron Explains How Do You Roll Six Movies Into One? 'Wild Tales' Director Damian Szifron Explains How Rosario Dawson Stole the Show From Chris Rock in 'Top Five' How Rosario Dawson Stole the Show From Chris Rock in 'Top Five' Alan Hicks: From Drummer-Surfer to Oscar-Shortlist Filmmaker Alan Hicks: From Drummer-Surfer to Oscar-Shortlist Filmmaker Alejandro González Iñárritu: 'Birdman' Could Have Been 'so wrong' Alejandro González Iñárritu: 'Birdman' Could Have Been 'so wrong' Amir Bar-Lev Likes to Make People a Little Uncomfortable Amir Bar-Lev Likes to Make People a Little Uncomfortable

REVIEW | Love Among the Ruins: Eytan Fox's "The Bubble"

By Michael Koresky | Indiewire September 3, 2007 at 4:41AM

Of course, it would follow that an Israeli filmmaker would center his films mostly around dichotomies, doubles, and impasses. Popular gay filmmaker Eytan Fox, whose previous two films, "Yossi and Jagger" and "Walk on Water," enjoyed healthy limited-run success in the U.S., returns with "The Bubble," and again proves that his strengths lie in establishing tender, fraught human relationships within volatile settings. Fox has a sharp ear and an open heart, and his characters' interactions are never less than believable, their struggles plainspoken and heartrending. Yet in shuttling these fragile souls through stock tragic frameworks, he sometimes undermines them, both personally and politically; though "The Bubble" makes for a mostly impassioned liberal plea, Fox's need to spin its central gay romance into a star-crossed present-day "West Bank Story" leads him to fall into some unnecessary stereotyping. Which is unfortunate since there's so much loveliness in "The Bubble."
1

Of course, it would follow that an Israeli filmmaker would center his films mostly around dichotomies, doubles, and impasses. Popular gay filmmaker Eytan Fox, whose previous two films, "Yossi and Jagger" and "Walk on Water," enjoyed healthy limited-run success in the U.S., returns with "The Bubble," and again proves that his strengths lie in establishing tender, fraught human relationships within volatile settings. Fox has a sharp ear and an open heart, and his characters' interactions are never less than believable, their struggles plainspoken and heartrending. Yet in shuttling these fragile souls through stock tragic frameworks, he sometimes undermines them, both personally and politically; though "The Bubble" makes for a mostly impassioned liberal plea, Fox's need to spin its central gay romance into a star-crossed present-day "West Bank Story" leads him to fall into some unnecessary stereotyping. Which is unfortunate since there's so much loveliness in "The Bubble."

Fox paints his political romance with broad strokes, yet he's undeniably keyed in to his characters' sexual energy. Even in the opening scene, in which an Israeli checkpoint soldier asks a group of Palestinian men to lift their shirts in order to reveal whether they're carrying contraband across the border, there's a fleeting yet unabashed erotic surge, especially when checkpoint guard Noam (Ohad Knoller) glimpses the bare, flat midriff of crossing Arab Ashraf (Yousef "Joe" Sweid). Though barely a meet-cute (the moment is interrupted by a Palestinian woman falling into violent labor), Noam and Ashraf meet again in Tel Aviv and begin a romance as physically frank as it is emotionally wary; with pent-up, necessarily closeted sexual frustration, Ashraf abruptly initiates the first kiss, yet with the foreknowledge that their affair can't be anything greater than a short-term across-the-border fling.

Of course, the two men fall harder for each other; smartly Fox doesn't use a foreboding atmosphere at this point, letting their relationship play out in wonderfully paced, naturalistic sequences that focus more on daily life in Tel Aviv among its twentysomethings, blinded to a certain extent by their liberal do-gooding. Perhaps even more essential to the relative success of "The Bubble" is its well-developed portrait of a modern, Westernized hipster culture (of which Fox refreshingly does not condescend to) awkwardly jutting out of a political quagmire. Embodied by Noam's two roommates, the brash, sexually confident straight girl Lulu (Danielle Wircer) and the gay, charmingly neurotic Yali (Alon Friedmann), who's nursing a crush on Noam, Tel Aviv is meant to be the film's titular bubble, airy, fragile, and vulnerable to the slightest outside force.

Yet while Fox maintains a pleasurable, studied look at sexually liberated, relatably modern Jews, his depiction of Ashraf's family (his sister is marrying a extremist Hamas leader) teeters on the edge of political opportunism. And by engaging Noam and Ashraf in a narrative of escalating crises, Fox necessitates an ending that, however much it reaches for tragic liberal resonance, revivifies some noxious stereotypes about Palestinians. Fox's conclusion feels at once shocking and completely telegraphed, and it proves that he cares more about putting his characters through impossible situations than letting them figure out their problems for themselves. This sort of narrative desperation is clearly a result of living amidst such violence, yet one wonders how great "The Bubble" could have been if Fox had freed Noam and Ashraf, and likewise the immensely appealing actors Sweid and Knoller, from his overly schematized narrative traps.

[Michael Koresky is co-founder and editor of Reverse Shot and the managing editor and staff writer of the Criterion Collection.]

This article is related to: Queer Cinema






Check out Indiewire on LockerDome on LockerDome

Most Read



Awards Season Spotlight

Contender Conversations

Indiewire celebrates the best and brightest from Independent film, Hollywood, and foreign cinema.

More