When will the pandemic end? Who knows? God does, though some things are best left to His knowledge. I know, we all would like to have a better idea of the bigger picture. God put in us a desire to understand past, present, and future. Like Faith, some things are unknowable. We can grasp and lunge for them all we want, but they will remain out of our reach this side of the grave. A big part of our journey, and I would argue that this applies to non-Christians as well, is learning to deal with these circumstances, how to cope with them. There is wisdom in letting go of our desire to know, but it is not easy. In the meantime, we can laugh. Better yet, you can laugh at the movie The Bubble. Sure, there are some parts of which this Catholic reviewer does not approve. At the same time, it makes light of a situation of which we are all, unfortunately, familiar.
In The Bubble, there is a fictional movie franchise called Cliff Beasts. Think Jurassic Park, but with a post-apocalyptic twist, like if the dinosaurs managed to rule the world once more and had tiny wings. There is a set of actors that have been in most, if not all of them. The studio has called for the sixth installment of this clearly tired series, and one of the actresses who had stepped away from her role as Dr. Lacey Nightingale, Carol Cobb (Karen Gillan), has decided to return. Actually, it is her agent, Marti (Rob Delaney), who convinces her to come back after a disastrous film about aliens and Israel. There are two problems. The first is her own anxieties as to whether or not the rest of the cast will welcome her. The second, and biggest, is the fact that COVID is making everything all the more difficult. Nonetheless, she tells producer Gavin (Peter Serafinowicz) that she will be present, and makes her way to England, landing in a deserted London Heathrow Airport, and traveling to a posh country estate turned hotel where the rest of the cast is staying. There, she must undergo the multitude of invasive tests to see if she is carrying the virus. Once she completes them, she finds the others in the bar, and while receptive to her, they are clearly not used to being told what to do, breaking most of the rules in place for their safety almost immediately. After Gavin introduces them all and gives them a speech, they must quarantine individually for two weeks. Of course, there is a great deal of getting around these restrictions. Once this has been completed, they get down to the business of making Cliff Beasts 6. Predictably, there are problems from the beginning. For instance, Howie Frangopolous (Guz Khan), who plays Jarrar in Cliff Beasts, has been without the marijuana he supposedly needs regularly, and eventually storms off the premises. Doing so, because of safety reasons, means he cannot return, and they are forced to fix the resultant continuity issues by giving him an awkward, computer-generated image (CGI) death. The biggest issue, though, is between the series star Dr. Hal Packard, played by Dustin Mulray (David Duchovny), and the current director Darren Elgan (Fred Armisen). Dustin believes he understands the film(s) best, and is constantly demanding rewrites of the script and reshoots. These usually clash with Darren, with his independent film background, and it results in a number of delays. Their squabbles are not the only reason for the movie getting behind schedule. There are also added quarantine times due to all the rule breaking. The biggest of these is Krystal Kris (Iris Apatow), a TikTok star with no prior acting experience who is brought in to be Vivian Joy in the film and add some youth. The hotel is a veritable prison, enforced by studio executive Paula (Kate McKinnon), who is having the time of her life traveling the world and overseeing the project via Skype. Wanting to have her own fun, Krystal sneaks off to London in order to keep her social media presence vibrant. In response, Paula hires Mr. Best (Ross Lee), a man of questionable morals, to line the roof with men with guns and shoot anyone who tries to escape. This is meant quite literally as Lauren Van Chance (Leslie Mann), Dustin’s ex-wife and Dolly in Cliff Beasts, has her hand shot off when she attempts to make a run for it. Things are getting tense, to say the least, particularly for Carol. Her live-in boyfriend back in the United States breaks up with her, but refuses to leave her house despite inviting in another woman to stay with him. In retaliation, she sleeps with a soccer player also quarantining in the hotel, but is disturbed to find out that he is married and has several lovers, the news of which is delivered just as he leaves. In order to unwind, she turns to Dieter Bravo (Pedro Pascal), Cliff Beast’s Gio, who does every drug under the sun. Actually, they all turn to him in order to cope with their spiraling emotions, and they have a cocaine fueled evening of bonding, including helping Krystal make a TikTok. The next day, they revolt. Getting the series muscle man Colt Rockwell, played by self-help enthusiast Sean Knox (Keegan-Michael Key), to pilot a helicopter, they manage to break free. We close with them appearing on the red carpet, not for the release of Cliff Beasts 6, but for a documentary piece on the making of the film shot by the much maligned behind-the-scenes camera man Scott Dawson (Nick Kocher).
Watching The Bubble made me recall what an old acquaintance with familiarity of how movies in Hollywood are made once told me about the business. She once related to me a story about a meeting she attended in Los Angeles, which they paused at one point for what was called a “coke break.” She thought they meant cola, but apparently it was cocaine that they had in mind. Now, I have never done any illegal drugs (I have barely taken legal ones as prescribed by a doctor when sick), but it seems to me that those who do them are attempting to fill a hole that only God can fill. In addition to substance abuse, Dieter seems to be addicted to sex. Whether it is a physical or spiritual deficit that is felt, nothing can replace it except God. They do try other means. Sean, who is the author of a self-help book that he constantly pushes on his fellow cast members, has the moment where he realizes that his life is devoid of meaning when Carol asks him about the book and he admits that he had little part in its creation. The only time he became familiar at all with its contents is when he is asked to read it for the audio version. Thus, with his life falling apart like everyone else’s, he turns to drugs. This is played for laughs in the film, but in reality it is quite sad. One of the disappointing aspects of the pandemic during the quarantine/social distancing phase is that more people did not turn to God to get them through the difficult times. Or maybe I am wrong. I hope I am. The reason I say this is because church pews remain relatively empty despite the lifting of most restrictions. In the Catholic Church, during the height of the shelter-in-place orders, bishops around the United States did away with the need to obey the weekly Sacrament of going to Mass. It would seem that there are still far too many Catholics that continue to believe that they do not need to attend. This was evidenced to me just today when I went to my diocesan Chrism Mass, and saw many an empty seat in a service that once required extra chairs on the side aisles of our Cathedral. We are not in the bubble anymore, but I think that this movie traded on the all too fresh memories of it for laughs. Some of it is genuinely funny, and I get that spiritual awakenings do not make good comedic material. Thus, while there is plenty to laugh at here, I get uncomfortable seeing how the characters respond to this situation.
In addition to the drug use in The Bubble, as hinted at above, there is a great deal of sexual material. There is no nudity, and to see Dieter imagining having sex with Kate (Daisy Ridley), the artificial intelligence (AI) of his in-room workout mirror is minimally chucklesome. It is funnier, though, when you consider the role they both have in the Star Wars franchise. Either way, it is questionable material not suitable for anyone but adults with strong moral gumption. I say this because I fear that those who are week will be led astray. Then again, this is why I write, to hopefully prevent such outcomes.