The Bubble (Strand Releasing, UR)

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film_bubble-sm.jpgOf course, self-absorption is a privilege of youth, so why should young Israelis be any different? If they weren't speaking in Hebrew, Yali, Noam and Lulu could be mistaken for three hipsters in London or New York.

 

 

 

 

 

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Yali (Alon Friedmann), Noam (Ohad Knoller) and Lulu (Daniela Wircer) are three Israeli roommates living the life of the young and privileged in Tel Aviv's ever-so-hip Sheinkin Street district. They take for granted access to fashionable clothes, trendy nightclubs and the latest electronic gadgets, as well as the right to move about freely, work at jobs which suit them, and sleep with whomever they choose (Yali and Noam are gay, Lulu is straight). The film's title refers to the Westernized "bubble" within which these characters live, which seems a million miles removed from the ethnic and religious conflicts of the Middle East.

Of course, self-absorption is a privilege of youth, so why should young Israelis be any different? If they weren't speaking in Hebrew, Yali, Noam and Lulu could be mistaken for three hipsters in London or New York. Even their political involvement is of the self-indulgent variety: they organize a "Rave against the Occupation" which is little more than a beach party for their leftist Israeli friends.

The bubble is pierced when Noam begins an affair with Ashraf (Yousef "Joe" Sweid), a Palestinian from Nablus. Ashraf moves in with Noam and Yali gets him a job, despite Ashraf's lack of a work permit. Ashraf's wardrobe is even given a makeover so he can pass for an Israeli, an illusion aided by his ability to switch between Arab and Israeli accents. Love does not conquer all, however: Ashraf's family refuses to either acknowledge or accept his homosexuality, Yali's sexual jealousy is mixed with anti-Arab prejudice, and Lulu's jilted boyfriend takes revenge by threatening to report Ashraf to the police.

There are three films competing for attention in The Bubble, and they do not always coexist gracefully. The most successful is a romantic comedy focused on the lives and loves of four attractive young people: it's conventionally scripted but nicely realized by the actors, and includes several steamy sex scenes of both the gay and straight variety. The second is a political film examining the Arab-Israeli conflict: this is far less developed and relies primarily on stock situations and characters, from brutal Israeli border guards to Ashraf's militant brother-in-law with the too-obvious name of Jihad. To his credit, however, director Eytan Fox (born in New York but resident in Israel since childhood) does not share the myopia of his characters and communicates a real sense of the daily humiliations suffered by the Palestinians. The third film is a thriller involving two suicide bombings, which seems to have been tacked on to create suspense and momentum; this one doesn't succeed at all and you'll be able to guess how it comes out long before the film ends.

So The Bubble is hardly a dramatic masterpiece, but it's an enjoyable film that is worth seeing for the window it provides on aspects of modern Israeli life (The Bubble was shot on location in Tel Aviv) unknown to most Americans. | Sarah Boslaugh

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