Movie Review: ‘CHRISTINE’ – a haunting character-driven glimpse into media culture

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Kip Mooney // Film Critic

CHRISTINE | 120 min | R
Director: Antonio Campos
Cast: Rebecca Hall, Michael C. Hall, Tracy Letts and Maria Dizzia

We may never know exactly what drove reporter Christine Chubbuck to kill herself live on the air in 1974. But CHRISTINE delves into her emotional deterioration.

An exemplary biopic, the movie isn’t totally interested in depicting events exactly how they happened. It would rather let Rebecca Hall (THE PRESTIGE) magnificently lead the way as a driven woman who won’t let anyone in no matter how hard they try.

Chubbuck worked for a TV news station in Sarasota, Florida, in the early ’70s. In this movie’s version of events, she’s constantly pushing for more substantive reporting instead of ratings-driven stories about death and cute animals. Given its setting and era-appropriate fashion, CHRISTINE sometimes feels like ANCHORMAN without the laughs.

The cast is terrific across the board, including Michael C. Hall (DEXTER) as the lead anchor, Timothy Simons (VEEP) as the weatherman and Maria Dizzia (ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK) as a camera operator. Christine has a more complicated relationship with her boss (Tracy Letts, HOMELAND) and her mom (J. Smith-Cameron, RECTIFY) and often explodes with rage at them, in contrast to the reserved if troubled person her colleagues know her as.

The film might have been better served if it had ramped up Christine’s deteriorating mental state, making it more like a thriller. Even as the respectful biopic we got, it’s still a tense if sanitized drama. There’s nothing wrong with CHRISTINE, per se, but there’s this nagging feeling it could have been something truly extraordinary. Scenes at a group therapy session and at a doctor’s office recall the gripping “audits” in THE MASTER. Little by little, people who are there to help Christine needle at the broken person underneath.

But CHRISTINE is Hall’s movie through and through. She owns the role from first frame to last. If the awards season weren’t so crowded, I think she would have a great shot at a Best Actress nomination. But CHRISTINE is such a small film that it could easily go ignored. Don’t let that happen.

CHRISTINE opens in limited release on Friday, November 4.
Dallas: Angelika Film Center in Dallas and Plano

About author

Preston Barta

I have been working as a film journalist since 2010, dividing the first four years between radio broadcasting and entertainment writing in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex. In 2014, I entered Fresh Fiction (FreshFiction.tv) as the features editor. The following year, I stepped into the film critic position at the Denton Record-Chronicle, a daily North Texas print publication. My time is dedicated to writing theatrical film reviews, at-home entertainment columns, and conducting interviews with on-screen talent and filmmakers, as well as hosting a podcast devoted to genre filmmaking (called My Bloody Podcast). I've been married for seven happy years, and I have one son who is all about dinosaurs just like his dad.