I think it was simpler in the "old days". In the mid '70's you could have a film like All The Presidents's Men that would be both a critical hit and a big star vehicle combined. Nowadays, it seems that talented people who want to put out popular stuff and still be appreciated for their artistic abilities are running back and forth on either side of a cinematic ping pong game - one side is where you deliver for big box office, the other is where you run to gather aesthetic satisfaction.
Sometime you also want to go small just to recharge, readjust and refocus. The now retired (but hopefully not for long) Steven Soderbergh is pretty well known for having done this. After some Ocean's Eleven this and Mighty Mike that, Soderbergh has sometimes tripped into no-frills territory with flicks like the experimental Schizopolis (1996) and, a little more recently, the low key entry called Bubble (2005).
It's small town America and middle-aged Martha (Debbie Doebereiner) spends her time looking after her father whenever she isn't slugging away at her tasks in a doll factory alongside youngish co-worker Kyle (Dustin James Ashley). Holiday rush time is coming up and attractive single mother Rose (Misty Wilkins) is hired to do some airbrush/stencil routines. The old hands seem to first get along well enough with the newcomer, with Rose even hiring Martha to do some babysitting work but things start changing once it becomes clear the younger woman is using the time to date Kyle on the sly. Rose plots to steal from her new man while also facing theft accusations from the father of her child. The problems she brings on to herself end in the worst possible way and it's up to the police to solve the tragic puzzle that results.
(Interesting trailer...although you may not think so.)
The three leads were all locally recruited non-professionals and each one turns in a more than credible performance. I will say the film does have a great sense of place, with creepy atmospherics and a realistic impression of a community that's dying. And the crime that is committed is an interesting enough examination of a low level endeavor carried out in a low level world. The problem is the script, which collapses after the big misdeed is committed. The culprit and likely ending can be seen from a mile (or a half hour) away and torpedoes any real reason for sitting through the remainder of the movie.
Bubble is not at all embarrassing - it has a lot of a less-is-more thing going for it. Unfortunately, the one area you don't want to take with that approach - the screenplay - is what really makes this a "small" film. For Soderbergh fans only.