Directed by Antonio Campos
Christine is an ambitious 29-year-old news reporter, in Sarasota, FL, circa 1974. Relentlessly motivated to succeed, she knows she has talent, but being a driven career woman in the 1970s comes with its own challenges, especially when competition for a promotion, unrequited love for a coworker and a tumultuous home life lead to a dissolution of self. With ratings in the cellar, the station manager issues a mandate to deliver juicier and more exploitative stories, a story firmly at odds with Christine’s serious brand of issue-based journalism. To accomplish her goals, she must overcome her self-doubt and give the people what they want.
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★★★★★ review by Wesley R. Ball on Letterboxd
The media crew hustles and bustles about the studio, cutting and adding and scripting frenetically in an attempt to make last minute changes just before the station goes live in front of the entire city of Sarasota, Florida. Cameras are trained on the large desk in the front and center- the stage from which the news anchors perform their art. Reporting is given a sense of artistry, a burst of creativity jumps into the most seemingly mundane report at times in a moment of inspiration. Christine Chubbuck was always looking for that inspiration, that inciting angle to give a fresh perspective on her work that gave her a precious limited amount of creative control. The day and age in which she lived was overrun by an aura of masculinity, where feminism is viewed as an invisible movement not yet given the voice it now has. Director Antonio Campos ensures that we are bred to loathe her boss, who consistently pressures Christine to stick with the standards and dismisses any signs of excitement or creativity she might have bursting from her depression-suffering self. Perhaps the film is a little too direct with how the audience's emotions should be directed towards the individual characters, yet it somehow makes the inciting final moment that much more dramatic in its effectiveness.
I had never heard of Chubbuck or her story before hearing about this film, and I didn't do any research on it prior to seeing this either. Despite knowing how it would end up, I wasn't expecting it to be as swift and shocking as it was, but Campos sufficiently ensures that the dramatic buildup of Christine's story arc makes the finale that much more effective. Rebecca Hall is supremely emotional and psychologically driven in her performance, bringing about a portrait of an individual suffocating in a primitive workplace environment run rampant with sexism in the management. Screenwriter Craig Shilowich mixes factual evidence with fictional fabrication to create a mosaic of who Chubbuck really was in the twilight days of her life. She was a woman dedicated to her art, committed to finding any possible opening to provide a different outlook at a news story. But her tale is layered with oppression, surrounded in an environment still drowning in antiquated thought processes and treatments that perhaps served as one of the biggest culprits to her downfall. It's a heartfelt look at a genuinely misunderstood soul driven through the depths of mental anguish.
Christine is a perturbing experience- a harrowing examination of psychological fracturing in a cutthroat world of journalism. It becomes second nature to feel for Chubbuck through Rebecca Hall's exhilarating portrayal, her emotions expand through every frame, overwhelming the senses with her sentiment of suffocation. Every actor is completely involved, synthesizing a tightly knit cast that helps to deliver the full emotional impact that this film hand delivers to you. It's a film so mesmerizing in its delicate attention to its subject, so deft and swift in its crafty handling of its subject material, so tantalizingly perfect in its lead performance, that I find myself drawn back to wanting to view it over and over again. Christine Chubbuck's story is fascinating, to say the least; but Campos has turned it into a unique work of art that is as powerful in its portrayals as it is in its own messages.
★★★★★ review by Wesley R. Ball on Letterboxd
Rebecca Hall gives what is probably the most transparent and revelatory performance of this decade. I'm shaken beyond words right now.
(Full review tomorrow.)
★★★★ review by Kalvinlying on Letterboxd
Christine might not be a ground-breaking film, but it sure is a wonderfully realistic depiction of depression and thus - a biopic of high quality.
Rebecca Hall definitely gives a performance of a lifetime, criminally underlooked work. Hall makes depression seem real. Cliché or not - she IS Christine Chubbuck.
This film rather brilliantly shows Christine's ups and downs. Whenever she seems to be better, even harder she always falls. Christine just can't find the energy to live with herself, not to mention living with other people. Her, or Rebecca Hall's, face really tells it all.
It's a simple film, but rather effective one. It simply does not overdo a single thing. Director Campos and Rebecca Hall definitely took care of that, and deserve some credit for their brilliant work.
★★★★ review by Jared S. on Letterboxd
Interesting to see that many are questioning the relative purpose of Christine's creation. The predictable angle, roasting the "sensationalist" nature of many news outlets and their audience that contributed in driving Christine to her horrific death is dabbled in but ultimately set aside. Healthy relationships; romantic, professional and familial evade her as well, but those ultimately are mended and diminished. I'd say Christine is about the frustrating ambiguity surrounding the sadness and struggles of middle-class individuals. Christine has a job, friends and a stable (if a little dissatisfying) income and she's undeniably intelligent. So what could've been so tough to drive her to kill herself? Society often dismisses the plights of these people, only recognizing the merits of sadness when derived from a specific, pinpointable happening.
I think that's the difficult, but also brilliant part about Christine. The film doesn't lionize her sadness much at all, but rather gradually builds it and sees as it seeps into each and every piece of her life. It feels real, almost inevitable once "it" happens. We get the journey, we see the destination coming. It's horrific, but as the film conveys there's no obvious way out of the darkness that surrounds her. Her life and what she perceives as what her life ought to be are eternally out of sync, trapping her in a perpetual state of dissatisfaction and shame.
Films about that sort of vague sadness fascinate me. Christine makes it it's mission to empathize and understand a woman who is widely known only for the climax of her life, not the journey there. I think it's a movie that could be very, very important and personal for a lot of people going through something similar; not as a piece of catharsis but instead as a sort of cautionary tale preaching the dangers of burrowing into sadness rather than emerging from it. More than anything though, it's just another reminder of how tough life can be. A sad, deeply cynical look at a woman who just couldn't find happiness.
★★★★ review by Aaron Hendrix on Letterboxd
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
Though Christine never truly says anything we haven't already heard when it comes to yellow journalism, Rebecca Hall's masterful performance breathes life into a complex person dealing with depression.
The handling of depression here is really impeccable. So many films blow depression into this earth-shattering theatricality that simply is unrepresentative of the realities of the condition. Depression isn't some overwrought soliloquy that one screams out to the world. It isn't perpetual tears. And it isn't just moping. Depression is not being able to get up in the morning because you've been stripped of the will power to enjoy your life. Depression is pushing people away because you're scared to acknowledge your condition by accepting help. Depression is feeling totally powerless all of a sudden and not being able to pinpoint exactly why.
Rebecca Hall and Campos get it. Hall's performance never blows the condition into anything other than realism. It just shows a woman trying to have a normal life, but being weighed down by the burden of depression. This is one of the most powerful films of the year, despite its unoriginality. I give Christine a 4/5.
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