Kate Plays Christine

Follow actress Kate Lyn Sheil as she prepares for her next role: playing Christine Chubbuck, a Florida newscaster who committed suicide live on-air in 1974. As Kate investigates Chubbuck’s story, uncovering new clues and information, she becomes increasingly obsessed with her subject.

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  • ★★★★ review by davidehrlich on Letterboxd

    [sheepishly looks back at Letterboxd review of CHRISTINE]

    …huh.

  • ★★★½ review by Lucy on Letterboxd

    the stress that those last 5 minutes caused me is going to do serious damage to my body in the long run

  • ★★★½ review by Mike D'Angelo on Letterboxd

    63/100

    Can't say anything concrete about this until the premiere, but the reviews coming out of Sundance are gonna be very interesting. Imagine if "Southern Man" and "Sweet Home Alabama" had both first appeared on the same compilation album.

    POST-PREMIERE: As I noted on Twitter from Sundance, this film and Antonio Campos' Christine inform each other so beautifully that I feel like a masterpiece could have been achieved had the two approaches been combined conceptually from the outset. As it stands, where Christine won me over in its last few minutes, Kate's bluntly didactic final scene sours what had previously been a thoroughly absorbing portrait of an actor's research process, with ethical concerns that were readily apparent but held mostly in check. Going all Funny Games at the end was unnecessary, and while I guess one could argue that it (like virtually everything else in the film) is performative, and thus not necessarily to be accepted at face value, there's a point at which that worldview becomes a black hole. As an actual documentary, though, I really dug this.

  • ★★★½ review by willa on Letterboxd

    that wig that fell off in the ocean? it was mine while watching this

  • ★★★½ review by Michael Sicinski on Letterboxd

    [7]

    There are so many moments of delicacy in this film, and the fact that I am a personally acquaintance of its director, Robert Greene, has made the prospect of reviewing it all that more daunting. That's not because I think Robert cannot take criticism - quite the opposite - but because, knowing his own critical acumen, I'm well aware of the need to bring my A-game.

    But recently I had the chance to see the other Christine Chubbuck film released this year, Antonio Campos' Christine. While a number of critics have quite strongly gravitated to one film or the other, I find myself agreeing with Mike D'Angelo's assessment that the two films have a way of...not "completing" each other, exactly, but mutually interrogating one another in a very productive dialectical manner. This is a rare thing in the culture, since usually to have two or more "takes" on one subject reflects a bandwagon mentality, all areas of the industry trying to cash in on some shallow fad or lurid tragedy.

    [Please click to the Christine review now.]

    Kate Plays Christine is a hybrid film-essay that tackles the Christine Chubbuck "problem" through select fictionalized segments, documentary footage, interviews with the key surviving participants in the events of that day, and the behind-the-scenes process whereby actress Kate Lyn Sheil conducts the research and soul-searching necessary to build her version of the Christine character. Although it is Greene's film, the structure and tone of KPC suggests that Sheil is a co-author of the work, her ideas and frustrations having the room to drive the film in unforeseen directions.

    Early scenes show Sheil running lines, examining locations in Sarastoa, Florida, and most notably getting fitted for what will become her omnipresent Christine signifier, a long, straight brunette wig. As Sheil speaks with co-workers and family members, and as she starts to discern the inadequacy of certain of the fictional set-ups, she becomes increasingly protective of Chubbuck. Sheil worries that the pathos of the Chubbuck story (her loneliness, social awkwardness, possible mental health issues) will turn her into a "type," someone whose actual concerns can be shunted aside. Or, put another way, if Chubbuck's life was given meaning by pulling the trigger, which is what a certain sick fascination with her suggests, then she should be allowed to rest in peace, not be trotted out for display.

    [Please click to the Christine review now.]

    One could certainly take issue with Campos' and Hall's choice, to make Chubbuck into a defender of old fashioned virtues in contemporary spaces (newsroom, dating scene, mother/daughter relations) where she is being overwhelmed by the shallow, self-serving demands of others. Showing her as fundamentally out-of-sync with her world not only makes her special but cordons her off, neutralizes whatever threat she may have posed for us. How savage is the world toward women who don't "act like women"? If we pathologize Chubbuck, we don't have to address these broader issues.

    This is part of the crisis of representing Chubbuck that Kate Plays Christine brings out. Sheil, a soft-featured actress with a gently feminine voice, is genuinely jarring when she "goes butch" to portray Chubbuck at different points. But what is perhaps more jarring is when Kate emerges from behind the character and retains that harder identity. The post-party stairwell scene, in particular, is of note because Sheil is angry, confronting Greene about the way the script has depicted Christine's romantic humiliation.

    [Please click to the Christine review now.]

    One of the limitations of Greene and Sheil's conceptual approach is that they accept Chubbuck's suicide as a kind of "social fact." (Sheil is even seen reading Durkheim at one point in the film.) It's "the monster at the end of this film," the thing that everything inevitably points to but that can never be explained. Because it is the inexplicable Big Bad, KPC ultimately chastises us for having an interest in it at all. (The last shot is a paradoxical indictment straight out of Michael Haneke.)

    Greene and Sheil are not wrong, of course. But they are presenting only half the story.

    [Please click to the Christine review now.]

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