It’s a surprise with this subject matter, but Antonio Campos’ Christine is deliciously witty. The Florida TV station where Christine works is expertly decked out in period ephemera showed off with dynamic editing, while the newsreading style adds a further ‘70s vibe; a healthy dose of cheesiness. This is mainly thanks to Michael C. Hall’s anchor, who also contributes a humorous running gag by continually ribbing weatherman Steve (Timothy Simons). The TV station cast have a great bantering chemistry, but even the opening and more lighthearted segment of the film is haunted by the inevitability of what’s to come.
Rebecca Hall is formidable as Christine Chubbuck. Beyond the physical transformation – severe dark curtains of long hair and an especially skinny frame – Hall is excellent at showing the different sides to Chubbuck’s personality. Craig Shilowich’s screenplay, however, is much more nuanced in the sympathetic portraits of Christine’s colleagues and mother. Although emphasising how much they tried to help creates tragic pathos, it’s easy to doubt the extent of Christine’s stubborn resistance. Given the significance of crafting stories for the air – and Chubbuck’s qualms about leading with “sensationalised” news – it’s impossible not to wonder how much of Christine is truth, and how much is bias or narrative manipulation. This misgiving is compounded by a noticeable dearth of backstory.
Michael C. Hall is saddled with some unnecessarily unsubtle dialogue that slightly patronises the audience, and similarly the final scene lingers too long, making its determined yet falsely neat “conclusion” with heavy hands.
Christine is populated with thoughtful performances, yet the cogs of its storytelling are all too apparent. It is perhaps telling that this wasn’t the only film about Christine Chubbuck at 2016’s London Film Festival . It’s interesting to see how Robert Greene’s documentary version, Kate Plays Christine, differs.
CAST: Rebecca Hall, Michael C. Hall, Tracy Letts, Timothy Simons
DIRECTOR: Antonio Campos
WRITER: Craig Shilowich
SYNOPSIS: The story of Florida TV reporter Christine Chubbuck, who committed suicide on-air in 1974.