THE BUBBLE (Eytan Fox). 117 minutes. Subtitled. Opens Friday (November 2). Rating: NNN
Director Eytan Fox follows up his gay-themed art-house crossover hits Yossi & Jagger and Walk On Water with this ambitious look at a handful of idealistic, well-meaning Israeli friends who meddle in the life of a Palestinian man (Yousef Sweid).
You'll remember Sweid from Walk On Water. In one of that film's strongest scenes, he played the German gay guy's Palestinian pickup, who incensed the Mossad agent, bringing up all sorts of interesting cultural and sexual themes.
Here he's Ashraf, a Palestinian man who meets the Israeli reserve officer Noam at a border checkpoint. The two hit it off, Ashraf later shows up at Noam's apartment, and soon Noam's two roommates (one's a gay man, the other's a straight woman) are trying to get Ashraf to stay illegally in Tel Aviv.
What starts out as a breezy sex comedy - think Friends: Israel - soon becomes more thoughtful, disturbing and, alas, melodramatic. The title refers to the protective bubble that surrounds Tel Aviv's liberal citizens, and it's a worthy theme. But it does make the shift in the final reel feel abrupt and unearned.
Ignore a tacky rave scene and you'll find good performances, including a clever cameo by Walk On Water's Lior Ashkenazi as himself. And be prepared to discuss the film afterwards; it's guaranteed to ignite arguments.