Thursday, November 10, 2016

Movie Review #516: "Christine" (2016)

Director: Antonio Campos
Rating: R
Running Time: 1 hour, 55 minutes
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The true story of Florida news reporter Christine Chubbuck (Rebecca Hall).

"Christine" is directed by Antonio Campos and is written by Craig Shilowich. It stars Rebecca Hall as the titular Christine Chubbuck, a television news reporter who worked for a Florida affiliate station in the 1970's. The film is based on the true story of a tragic on-air incident involving Christine. It examines Chubbuck as a person and looks at the events in her life and her overall mental state that led to her on-air suicide.

This movie really can be summed up with one person, Rebecca Hall, who gives a truly brilliant, manic performance. She puts on full display the mental state of a woman who wants to do work that matters to her and her community, but is frustrated with her place at the station reporting on things like chickens and strawberries. Chubbuck wants to do hard hitting stories on politics and social issues that will make a real difference. Unfortunately for her, the news station and her overbearing boss, played by Tracy Letts, want to focus on ratings and provocative stories about car crashes and fires. To compete with other stations across the country, what really matters is a new brand of sensationalism, one we've come to be familiar with in 2016 where if it bleeds, it leads. This shows the dark path the news media was headed down in the 70's and is now 1,000 times worse than it was back when Christine was reporting the news. Any time we see a movie that focuses on what the news media used to be and what sent us down the path it is on presently, we just shake our heads. We mourn the loss of a media that used to report on issues that mattered, not just whatever garbage will get the most people to watch while reading celebrity tweets and taking them as gospel.

Hall is able to show a nuanced display of emotion as we see the pain Chubbuck goes through in her life. These issues are both mental, stemming from her deep-seeded depression and/or bipolar disorder, and physical, related to her ovarian cyst at the young age of 29. Hall commands a room with her strong, often resentful and angry presence when expressing her opinion, but is simultaneously vulnerable, awkward, and unsure of herself in more social situations. Though "Christine" is sold almost entirely on Hall's excellent, impressive performance, the film is not without its flaws. Since the movie takes its time to build Christine's emotional and physical state, methodically and carefully descending her into madness, the pacing can be a bit slow, which makes it feel longer than it really is. It also probably doesn't need to be nearly two hours in length, not that we mind lengthy movies, we just want to make sure that length is necessary for the story that is being told.

Other than these minor hiccups, what we are left with is a well made true life drama with fantastic acting, not just from the aforementioned Hall, but all of the supporting cast as well, including the aforementioned Tracy Letts and his domineering demeanor as the station director, the charming but sort of smarmy Michael C. Hall as George, the main on-air personality at the station, the only real friend Christine has in Maria Dizzia's Jean, Timothy Simon's Steven, another co-worker of Christine's, and J. Smith-Cameron as Peg, Christine's live-in, hippie-dippy, non-rent paying mother. All of "Christine" feels accurate in terms of the setting and look of the decade, from the clothing worn, equipment used, and other branding for that time period, which means Campos and company used a great attention to detail to set the era just right. This is a great movie for those into history and true life stories, but it is a sad one at that.

My Rating: 7.5/10
BigJ's Rating: 7/10
IMDB's Rating: 7.3/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 82%
Do we recommend this movie: Sure, why not?

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