As a movie making fun of franchises, it’s only natural for The Bubble to take a run at Star Wars, or in this case, questionable Star Wars shipping.
WARNING: The following contains spoilers for The Bubble, currently streaming on Netflix.
Bubble‘s main premise leaves a great deal of room for fun with the fourth wall. Cameos, in-jokes and overt nods to the abound audience, largely successful and creating a delightfully confusing soup as to who is a “real” actor and who is just playing one. The Benedict Cumberbatch joke from the trailer – in which drug-addled actors see the face of the Doctor Strange star on the head of their COVID safety officer – is merely the most prominent example.
The funniest, and possibly the weirdest, entails a riff on a shared franchise. Pedro Pascal and Daisy Ridley have a moment that may set certain starwars shippers’ hearts aflutter. Their shared connection to that galaxy far, far away – he as the star of The Mandalorian, she as the centerpiece of the sequel trilogy – gives the joke an extra layer. As with a fair amount of Bubble‘s humor, its creepy vibe is part of the point.
The title refers to a fictional film production – the latest in a middling series of blockbusters – isolated in an English luxury hotel during the worst of the 2020 COVID surge. A combination of boredom, insecurity and copious drug use drives the cast and crew over the edge, resulting in the expected levels of zany mayhem. Pascal plays one of the fictional movie’s stars, a burnt-out “serious” actor who stopped caring about the production the moment he arrived and promptly buried his face in a mountain of powder. His vices of him include dairy as well – though he’s hardly alone since the crew is rife with loneliness and hormones – marked by earnest, hopeless efforts to get various members of the staff and crew into bed with him.
All of which is a roundabout way of saying Pascal’s a long way from Din Djarin here. That comes to a head when – after several sharp rejections at his inappropriate advances from him – he drops acid and begins exercising. That marks the arrival of Ridley, playing an online fitness instructor named Kate on his mirror-style machine. As the drugs take hold, Kate becomes sexually aggressive, ordering him over to the machine to satisfy her. “This is creepy,” he murmurs before diving in. “But I like it.” The scene ends with a long shot of the pair copulating inside the machine – both still fully clothed – while he apologizes profusely.
The impression is quite deliberate and goes beyond Pascal’s self-effacing comment. Director Judd Apatow uses an effects shot to depict their joining, with Ridley’s face expanding through the device’s cellophane-like screen to kiss him. It closely resembles effects in David Cronenberg’s videodromewhich entailed James Woods’ sleazy TV producer plunging his face into a permeable TV screen at the behavior of Debbie Harry’s onscreen seductress.
In Bubble, of course, it’s all played for laughs, largely at Pascal’s expense. But the coupling also runs straight into starwars shipping fan fiction, providing starwars fans with a brief, weird look at what Rey Skywalker and The Mandalorian might look like together. Once the initial novelty wears off, it invites an ever-expanding number of questions – Ray and Din’s age differences, for instance, or where Grogu might be at the time – that plug right back into the joke’s unsettling core. Fan fiction and shipping have become an established part of pop culture, but – as the joke observes – that doesn’t necessarily make certain combinations any less eerie.
considering Bubble is satirizing Hollywood’s voracious appetite for franchises in general and that Pascal currently sits atop one of the most prominent franchises in history, such a gag was probably inevitable. But unlike the Cumberbatch joke, Bubble didn’t underline the connection. It just put the actors in their roles and left it to the audience to put the pieces together. Given the film’s deliberate effects to blur fact and fiction, it’s a smart call. And looking at the gentle dig at starwars fans, it’s clearly anything but a coincidence.
To witness the Star Wars ship no one asked for, The Bubble is streaming on Netflix.
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