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

Hello, there! My name is Preston Barta, and I am the features editor of Fresh Fiction and senior film critic at the Denton Record-Chronicle. My cinematic love story began where I was born: off planet on the isolated desert world of the Jakku system. It's there I passed the time scavenging for loose parts with my good friend Rey. One day I found an old film projector and a dusty reel of the 1975 film JAWS. It rocked my world so much that I left my kinfolk in the rearview (I so miss their morning cups of green milk) to pursue my dreams of writing about film. It wasn't long until I met two gents who said they would give me a lift. I can't recall their names, but one was an older man who liked to point a lot and the other was a tall, hairy fella. They got me as far as one of Jupiter's moons where we crossed paths with the U.S.S. Enterprise. Some pointy-eared bastard said I was clear to come aboard. He saw that I was clutching my beloved shark movie and invited me to the "moving pictures room" where he was screening the 1993 film JURASSIC PARK to his crew. He said my life would be much more prosperous if I were familiar with more work by the god named Steven Spielberg. From there, my love for cinema blossomed. Once we reached planet Earth, everything changed. I found the small town of Denton, TX, and was welcomed into the Barta family. They showed me the writings of local film critic Boo Allen. He became my hero and caused me to chase a degree in film and journalism. After my studies at graduate of the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, I met some film critics who showed me the ropes and got me into my first press screening: 2011's THE GREEN LANTERN. Don't worry; I recovered just fine. MAD MAX: FURY ROAD was only four years away.