Starring Rebecca Hall, Michael C. Hall, Tracy Letts, Maria Dizzia
“In keeping with Channel 40’s policy of bringing you the latest in ‘blood and guts’, and in living color, you are going to see another first—attempted suicide.” Christine is a powerful film about the effects of and too often untreated form of depression, if that’s in fact what news reporter Christine Chubbuck was suffering from. Rebecca Hall (The Town, Iron Man 3) gives the performance of her career as the Florida news reporter. Hall’s performance along with the script really gets inside this troubled woman’s mind as she hurtles toward the shocking conclusion that culminated on live television July 15, 1974.
Her work was everything; she was even called the smartest person at the news station by the manager. “People are listening to me, so I need to make sure I am really saying something,” she explained, always jockeying for more visibility on air. At 29, Christine (Hall) focused on stories that involved and affected the community, but with low ratings WXLT-TV out of Sarasota was in danger. “If it bleeds it leads,” Michael (Letts) encouraged the staff to find juicier material which conflicted with Christine’s journalistic ethics and taste. An ovarian cancer cyst, no husband or even boyfriend, Christine stressed about everything and coming home to her outgoing mother didn’t help things. “If you could have figured things out, maybe I would know how the world works,” she berated her mother on one of many occasions.
Hall’s work is the best of her career and one of the best female performance in 2016.
Director Antonio Campos does many things with Christine. He inadvertently showcases the progression of technology in the media. The film authentically shows how news stories were cut from film strips and takes pride in serving up authentic equipment. Campos also highlights mental illness through a performance that doesn’t always elicit sympathy. Chubbuck was a very difficult person, scenes of her disregard and overreach to authority figures are cringeworthy, illustrating the evolution in working environments from the 70’s. There isn’t suspense in the script, all of that comes from Hall’s performance. The intensity from her delivery is often so unnerving it’s hard to watch and the filmmakers ensure we see supporting characters’ reactions.
Tracy Letts has become the king of supporting actors, having already delivered profound performances in Elvis & Nixon, Indignation, and Weiner Dog, this year alone. His work here as the station manager is equally impressive. In many ways, it’s harder to watch a story play out knowing how it ends. The ingredients that lead up to the tragedy are certainly given more precedence than the violent act that shocked the world of broadcast television. Actor turned debut screenwriter Craig Shilowich could have tightened Christine a bit, although admittedly there is a lot to explore in creating such a complex character. Hall’s work is the best of her career and one of the best female performance in 2016. If she makes it into one of the most competitive best actress races in years, there would be a plethora of clips that showcase this extraordinary and relentless performance.
Rebecca Hall is the only reason you need to see this film.