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Most people who have ever heard of Christine Chubbuck already know how
her story ends; She's been attributed to glimpsing into the future of
television journalism with her final statement, the story turning into
a morbid urban legend in the over forty years since the incident
occurred. I admit, the first time I heard the story almost ten years
ago, it sounded so bizarre, I almost couldn't believe it.
Christine sets out to humanize Christine Chubbuck, and elicit empathy from an audience that might already see her as someone who is monstrous. Yet, somehow, the movie accomplishes it's goal, giving her humanity that was lost in the headlines. Much of that credit is due to Rebecca Hall who transformed herself completely, throwing herself into the role so thoroughly that it's almost frightening.
The first time we see Christine she is filming herself doing a mock interview, and then later on, we see Christine examining every little gesture, picking herself apart in order to remake herself into something better to gain that elusive feeling of perfection, yet no matter how many times she's assured by Jean Reed (Maria Dizzia), the only person at WZRB that could probably be considered a friend, there's still that look of dissatisfaction with herself etched on her face.
It's been written that Christine Chubbuck used to give puppet shows to mentally challenged children so the screenwriter incorporated that into the film, but it's utilized as little glimpses of what she's thinking: 'Be Bold, Be Brave' she tells them, a fairly innocuous phrase, but for the viewer who knows what's to come later on, it has chilling connotations.
The moment that made Christine Chubbuck famous is shown in all of it's brutal and devastating impact. The film even shows her mother watching as it all unfolds. I don't know if Christine Chubbuck's mother, Peg, was actually watching the day Christine did what she did, but the possibility of that actually occurring, is heartbreaking.
It's a testament to the filmmakers that, though Christine can often come across as incredibly difficult and unlikable, the audience still has a great deal of empathy for her. Yes, she has fights with her boss about 'blood and guts' television, and her mother about the state of her life, but it's carefully contrasted with moments of quiet desperation, like the sequence when the head news anchor, George (Michael C. Hall), takes her to a transactional analysis meeting where they play a game of 'Yes, but " and Christine slowly reveals the things that she feels make her life impossible to live.
Overall, Christine is a portrait of a woman desperately trying to make something of herself but because of a chemical imbalance, she can't seem to sync with the people and world around her. Anchored by Rebecca Hall who gives an Oscar-worthy turn, Christine is also supported by an excellent supporting cast (Maria Dizzia and J. Smith Cameron in particular), strong direction and an incisive script. Highly recommended.
I'm going to write this review as if you had not heard the sensational
and tragic story of Christine Chubbuck. If you are unfamiliar with
Christine's story then I suggest you do not read into it before seeing
this film. I shall reveal very little of it here.
The story concerns the real life story of Christine Chubbuck, a reporter in Florida in the 1970s. As an opportunity opens up at a bigger news station, Christine finds herself attempting to adopt the station manager's sensationalist approach to the news. The film details her struggle with depression and it's impact on her personal life and work.
The depression is seen as both the result and cause of Christine 's difficulty in connecting with others. Many characters throughout the film reach out to her only for her to pull away. The cyclical nature of depression is all too familiar but what's interesting here is that each character who reaches out to Christine is well meaning but insist on viewing her depression in their own way instead of actually speaking with Christine.
At one point Christine screams "why is no one listening to me?!" and it's true. No one listens to Christine. Her mother is certain that she just needs a man. The anchor on her news show is certain she just needs therapy. Her friend at the station is certain that she just needs ice cream. Everyone is so quick to offer possible remedies and solutions that Christine is actually overlooked.
This is exemplified in the "Yes, but" game as seen in the trailer for the film. In the game the speaker tells the listener their problems. The listener then suggests a solution to which the speaker replies "yes, but" and points out the issues with that solution. The idea may be to get to the heart of the speaker's problems or for them to simply run out of problems and start thinking about solutions but the effect is clear. The issues and concerns of the speaker are being dismissed, one by one. Often with just a few words.
This portrayal of the isolating effects of depression is very affecting. We see Christine attempt to bury herself in work, buying a radio scanner to listen in on police frequencies in an attempt to find the gruesome story she needs to gain recognition. As we see her hunched over her notepad listening to two police officers brag about sexual conquests, we can see the cracks starting to appear.
The entire film hinges on Rebecca Hall's ability to play a character who is simultaneously spiralling out of control and deeply sympathetic and fortunately she accomplishes this extremely well. She is magnetic to watch even as she shrinks into the backgrounds of the scenes in which Christine finds herself. Her awkwardness and frustration are told through tiny movements and gestures.
The film takes some liberties with the real life of Christine Chubbuck. Some people on her life have been omitted and some incidents have been made to occur later than they actually did for dramatic effect. However if you walk into this film without knowing how Christine's story ended then I am sure you will be as shocked as the world was back in 1975 and hopefully you will reflect on how you personally react to depression, in yourself and others. If you're anything like me you will emerge from the cinema desperate to know more about this enigmatic and tragic young woman.
The film is a very tense and uncomfortable slow burn with some surprisingly funny moments. Performances are excellent all round but this really is Hall's show and is an excellent showcase for her talents as a screen presence.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Let's start with a truism.
Simple reviews are for simple films. This is not a simple film.
On the one hand, you have a drama based on a true story of a reporter in the 70s who had a nervous breakdown and ultimately self-destructed.
Films with "known" endings are always a challenge because, you have to ask, what is there to hold the attention of the viewer if you already know what happens? Here we have an answer: to hold the attention, we have Rebecca Hall's best-ever performance of her already-solid career. Dressed down, no makeup, she not only disguises her natural beauty (clearly seen in other films she has starred in) but actually creates a character that simultaneously engages and horrifies the viewer at the same time.
Her portrayal of real-life reporter Christine Chubbuck is not unlike one of those "suspense" films about a time-bomb that needs to be defused before it explodes and takes an entire building with it. The manic energy Hall builds is a show-stopper and one cannot avoid the prediction that this performance will be noticed, and honored, down the road.
On an entirely different level, however, director Antonio Campos never misses an opportunity to paint this story against a broader canvas, a canvas that is as appropriate to the events of today -- this review written on the eve of the Trump inauguration -- as it was during the 70s, when incoming president Ford "pardoned" outgoing president Nixon.
Campos achieves this by clever edits and inserts, the selection of a specific sound bite here, the choice of a special movie Chubbuck watches by herself there (for example, Christine on her free time chooses to watch Carnival of Souls 1962, a film about a heroine who goes quietly insane because she is not sure about who she actually is.) The fact is that the news media is no better today than it was then, and likely much worse. Years ago, MAD MAGAZINE did a satire on the NYT's motto "all the news that's fit to print," re-imagining it as "all the news that fits, we print." An argument can be made that the west's news services (90% of which are owned by only six corporations in 2017) are merely glorified ad agencies. At best, they are pushing endorphins. At worst (check out the 2016 scandal over the DNC) they are pushing ideas into people's heads that are partial and biased.
If Ms. Chubbuck were alive today, one doubts if she would be any more pleased with the job she so desperately tried to perform.
The true story of Christine Chubbuck is not a happy one, but it is an important one. Her story is lensed out in Director Antonio Campos' bio flick "Christine" (no there is not a creepy red car in this one). Christine Chubbuck was a 1970's reporter in a Sarasota television station who infamously & sadly committed suicide in a live television news broadcast. Chubbuck's story inspired Peter Finch's character in Sidney Lumet 70's classic "Network". I do have to report that Rebecca Hall's performance as Christine is the best one I have seen on screen by a lead actress since Jessica Chastain's work in "Zero Dark Thirty". And if you disagree with me, I will be "mad as hell and will not take your disagreement anymore". All kidding aside, Rebecca Hall totally transformed herself into Christine Chubbuck, from her quirky mannerisms to her isolated depression; it was worth a million bucks to see and hopefully come Oscar nomination time, the Academy will be hailing Hall with a Best Actress Oscar nomination. I still have my Hall pass, so I will be speaking about another Hall; that would be Dexter himself, Michael C. Hall. He delivered quite admirably with his portrayal of the station's main television anchor George; who is semi-narcissistic but also semi-caring; like most anchors these days; hence Brian Williams; just kidding, just kidding this is not the "life of Brian". Also superb with supporting thespian contributions to "Christine" is Tracy Lett as the station manager Michael, and Maria Dizzia as Jean the station's camerawoman and also a Chubbuck confidante. Now, Campos does excel in orchestrating "Christine" but the mood of the film is very gloomy as also its look. But this was most of all Rebecca Hall's showcase, and one that should not be tuned out by the movie going public. Signing off. ***** Excellent
After I came out of the theatre for the new film, Christine, I was absolutely speechless. I knew how the film was going to end based on historical data and information I had read about the main character who the film is based on before I saw it. I knew how it was going to end and yet the film had a very haunting and powerful presence over me not only with it's ending, but also the events leading up to it as well. This my dear readers is the sign of a great if not masterful film in each and every way. A film that can completely envelope you into it's world and it's group of characters and so affect you that afterwards you are completely shaken and at a loss for words because you have so many different feelings and emotions going on in both your head and your every part of the body that no matter what you may be thinking, or feeling, you know that this is a film and an experience that you will not soon forget. Even if the film was something that you didn't personally like, or couldn't get into, I would find it hard to find anybody who would actually sit down and give this film a chance, who was not personally affected, chilled, or had some strong emotions resonating within them by the time the film was over. I stress highly that this strong and powerful affect was not simply by use of excessive violence, shock value, or bad taste, but more than anything the wonderful development of this character, Christine and how we have so many conflicted and battling emotions of what to think and feel for her and yet we feel that much stronger those feelings for her because even though we may not understand her, or what she is going through, we still feel extremely deeply inside and out for her. This film could be compared to films such as Network, or even Nightcrawler from a few years ago. However, I would suggest that this film gives the indication of sensationalism in the media and news broadcasts in particular, but it does not just stop there, but instead gives us an absolutely riveting story of a young woman with some serious mental health issues that will ultimately prove to be too much for her, or really anybody to handle. The film takes place in 1974 and although it is based on a real person and events, I would be curious to know that up until this movie, how many people actually knew of Christine Chubbuck, or remember her from the newscasts back at that time. Was it a well publicized event, or something that maybe due to the sensitive nature of it was perhaps withheld from the media? I am glad however that this has been made into a feature length film. I have heard of some arguments calling the film exploitative and causing further harm, or smearing to that of Christine and her remaining family members and loved ones. I would however argue that while the film is certainly a disturbing watch and quite upsetting at times, that it is an essential film and a story that definitely needs to be told. Simply for the reason of Christine's mental illness and showing how much affect that can have on own's social, work, home and personal life in each and every way. As we go through the film see event after event and difficulty after difficulty affecting Christine and while sometimes we get so frustrated watching her because of her social awkwardness and unorthodox ways of handling herself and sometimes to the point of creating more trouble for herself that it can be maddening to watch at times simply because in a sense we still care and feel for this deeply troubled young woman. I think in some ways whilst dealing with mental illness she should be credited for being a woman of perseverance and never giving up and also someone who was never quite understood of others, but perhaps if given a chance to shine she would have a lot to offer to others such as the puppet shows she would put on at the local children's hospital. We see several different factors all that trouble Christine greatly and the performance by Rebecca Hall is probably with Hailee Steinfeld, the best female performance of 2016 and one that I hope is not overlooked. It must have been a draining performance and a difficult one, but Hall pulls it off flawlessly in what is the best performance of her career. The film's attention to detail and overall affect that comes across to you is masterfully done by it's cast and crew and like I mentioned earlier it is a film that will stay with you for a long time if not forever. What a wonderful achievement and with Edge of Seventeen, it is the best film of 2016 and I doubt there will be few if any that will top it this year. Also what in a way is a great look into the world of mental illness and how far we have come with help and awareness in that area. Something definitely to be applauded.
If it bleeds, it leads. In response to such sentiment, reporter
Christine Chubbuck committed suicide on live television on July 15,
1974, in Sarasota, Florida. This thoughtful, emotional and compelling
film delves into Christine's character and likely motivations for
taking her life just shy of her 30th birthday. Dreams of success in
both her professional and personal life turned into a series of
disappointments and troubles. Assigned to cover dull stories and turned
down for promotions by the good ole boys club at her workplace that
favored looser women, Christine also had health and family woes and a
patronizing love interest. Awkward, often unapproachable and
introverted, Christine was also intelligent, amiable, creative and
kindhearted. She volunteered at a children's shelter where she
presented short plays with puppets named Tangerine and Dragon. Her news
ideas seemed brilliant and promising if they were just given the
opportunity to succeed, yet none of this mattered in the network's
drive for "juicier" and cheaper stories.
In this true story the ending is already known, yet the film is still suspenseful and fascinating. What is remarkable is that attitudes regarding the sensationalism of the news and the treatment of depression have not changed much since the 1970s. You'd think we might have learned something from this story if not from our own experiences since then. The story reminds us to "get to know the people around us," said the script writer after the showing at the 2016 Toronto International Film Festival. Rebecca Hall is incredible in her portrayal of Christine. Christine's death is not overly dramatized. I liked the soundtrack that included a John Denver song.
Christine, one of the best films I've seen this year, might appear at
first to be about a feminist issue - set in 1974 at a small TV station
in Sarasota, Florida, a woman named Christine Lubbock (Rebecca Hall)
has to contend with her male co-workers and male boss, and where they
get preferential treatment (at least seemingly, ultimately) despite
being told by her own boss she's the smartest on there - but it's
strongest as a depiction of mental illness. This is the subject that
actually makes for more compelling subject matter, though it is harsher
to see depicted; I cringe watching this film, it's uncomfortable to
watch, and despite/because of this it's a brilliant depiction of a
bi-polar person and the interior struggle of her life.
There are two fronts this film is successful. The first is the technical aspect. This looks, feels, acted, sounds like a movie from the period in the 70's (you know, back when American cinema was king as far as getting deeper into character and mood and technique and showing a reality moviegoers hadn't been exposed to much before outside of foreign cinema) with Campos and his DP using zoom lenses and shots that linger maybe just a little too long, and audio that sometimes (no, often times) can put us into the state of mind of the character: when Christine is laser-focused, nothing else can detract from her. When she is wary, she may hear the sounds outside that make her a little distracted (there's one scene between Christine and George, played by Michael C Hall, in a car that made me see/hear this). Not to mention the clothes, the music (so much bad 70's pop on the precipice of disco), and how people talked to one another.
The other thing that makes it authentic is how Christine and everyone talks, The dialog here is all about showing the realism of the TV station, and finding the nuance and what surrounds this woman who is very smart. It could be said she has a touch of Asperger's along with the bi-polar, if one wanted to go into a diagnosing-on-the-couch approach. But that takes away from what Campos and Rebecca Hall accomplish with this character. One may be reminded of Nightcrawler from two years ago, also about an ambitious being in the world of news (also, one should say, with a mental or personality disorder of some kind, and access to a police radio for the latest scoop), only while Gyllenhall in that film was a pure sociopath and no lack of communicating what he thinks/feels/sees, Christine's problems are an inability to come out with something all the time.
To be sure she's surrounded by the kind of news culture that has only multiplied exponentially over the past four decades; "If it bleeds, it leads," Christine's boss says, to which Christine reminds him that's a BS catch-phrase. No matter: the pressure is on to get things that people want to see, that brings ratings, and the same "human interest" stories about locals with Strawberry farms or chicken coops won't cut it. But what drew me in to this film was how potent the point of view was for Christine in this world. It's hinted at (or flat out spoken) that she had some previous anxiety/personality/bi-polar disorder issues back in Boston where she used to work, and now being in Sarasota isn't being much of an improvement. So among this news team, where she tries to find her own path and is up against resistance (some understandable, some not), and with friends (Maria Dizza as Jean is as good a supporting performance as from Michael C Hall, and he's really great here), she makes her own problems but never in a way that makes her unsympathetic.
Christine is closer if anything to Taxi Driver as far as a story of someone on the edge of an existence, and it's all the more painful because of what Christine is able and ready to do, her talents and intuition and in her way mix of innocence and cynicism (though mostly disbelief) at the world around her, which includes her own pot-smoking hippie mother. Hall taps into the ball of contradictions in this character, and I was often on the edge of my seat like this was the most intense thriller in years.
And it's in fact all based on a true story; I had known a couple of the broad strokes of the story, the climax in particular, and I almost wish I hadn't. I won't mention what happens to the sometimes awkward, full articulate but "not easy to approach" (as George says to her at one point) Christine by the end of her story, but even knowing it the filmmakers and Hall draw us in so inexorably to her interior and exterior struggles through such precise and heartbreaking storytelling that I can't shake the feeling this will be with me for a while.
"Christine" (2016 release; 115 min.) is a movie about the final days of
TV news reporter Christine Chubbuck. As the movie opens, we see
Christine conduct an imaginary interview with President Nixon, who is
under fire for Watergate. It is the summer of 1974, and Christine is a
reporter at a small TV station in Sarasota, FL. She is not happy with
her role at the station (dreaming to be promoted to a bigger anchoring
role), and not happy with her life in general (living with her mom, no
romantic interest in her life, etc.). At this point, we are 15 min.
into the movie, but to tell you more of the plot would spoil your
viewing experience, you'll just have to see for yourself how it all
Couple of comments: this movie, "based on true events" we are reminded at the beginning, is a stunning look at the downward spiral of a lonely but ambitious woman, who is determined to make it 'big' in the TV news business, yet seemingly can't catch a break. Director Antonio Campos does an excellent job, capturing the zeitgeist of the nation at that time, replicating the looks and feel of the summer of 1974 almost to perfection (including a bunch of radio hits from that era--now sounding pretty horrible). Even though Christine finds some outlets (volunteering at the local children's hospital), it isn't nearly enough to prevent the sad and horrifying ending. Since we all know going in how this is going to end, it makes for a pretty depressing experience, even though the movie itself is quite good. Rebecca Hall shines as Christine, and she carries the movie on her shoulders from start to finish, but equally outstanding is Tracy Lets as her boss Michael, the TV station's manager who keeps urging Christine to "just make your stories juicy" and "if it bleeds, it leads". Guess he never imagined Christine would take that to its ultimate conclusion...
"Christine" opened this weekend at my local art-house theater here in Cincinnati, and I couldn't wait to see it. The Saturday early evening screening where I saw this at was attended okay, somewhat to my surprise. It looks like there is some interest out there to find out what drove this woman to do what she did. I don't know that I can recommend this movie all that strongly, since this is an utterly depressing viewing experience, but let me be clear that "Christine" is a well-made and well-acted movie for sure.
Greetings again from the darkness. On July 15, 1974, television news
reporter Christine Chubbuck read a prepared statement and then
committed suicide on-air by putting a gun to her head and pulling the
trigger. You may not recognize her name, but you have likely heard the
it's no urban legend. Director Antonio Campos and writer Craig
Shilowich offer up a biopic with some insight into Ms. Chubbuck's
personal and professional life so that we might better understand what
drove her to such a public and tragic end.
Rebecca Hall takes on the titular role (don't mistake this for the 1983 John Carpenter/Stephen King film), and despite her usual stilted on screen mannerisms, she delivers what is an emotionally raw and nuanced performance that is the best of her career and one that keeps us glued to a story of which we already know the ending. We see a woman dedicated to her vision of the profession, while being maddening to those who know her, love her, and work with her. She has an awkward intensity that compounds her lack of social skills and an ongoing struggle with depression. Somehow, Ms. Hall allows us to understand the personal and professional struggles and how things could have spiraled into hopelessness for Christine.
The commentary on the early days of tabloid journalism ("If it bleeds, it leads") is especially interesting given how the current Presidential campaigns have been covered more than 40 years after the film is set. One might also note the parallels to the character of Howard Beale in Network (1976) though Christine Chubbuck was less vociferous and never took to yelling "I'm mad as hell, and I'm not going to take it anymore" while on camera (though she evidently felt that way).
Support work comes from Tracy Letts as the frustrated news director, Michael C Hall as the mixed-signals anchorman on whom Christine has a quiet crush, J. Smith-Cameron as her mother and housemate, Maria Dizzia as her friend and co-worker, and Timothy Simons as the misunderstood and ignored weatherman.
The film clearly makes the point that Christine was a misfit in her work and personal life, and though some of the timeline and known specifics are either re-worked or ignored for artistic purposes, Ms. Hall must be commended for highlighting the effects of depression. Even the best meaning friends and family can unintentionally make things worse. We see a clip of Walter Cronkite's actual report of her death, and Christine's own words "The latest in blood and guts" were actually ahead of her time.
Christine (2016/I) was directed by Antonio Campos. Rebecca Hall plays
Christine Chubbuck, a TV reporter in Sarasota, Florida. This is a
fictionalized biography of Ms. Chubbuck. If you check Wikipedia, you'll
know that much of what we see actually happened.
Christine Chubbuck was a person with depression, or possibly bipolar illness. She was well educated and financially comfortable, but her interpersonal life was in shambles. In the film, her behavior was strange and sometimes bizarre. People keep asking her, "Are you OK?" She always assures them that she's OK, and they believe her. Even if they don't fully believe her, they have their own problems, and they move on to other matters.
Rebecca Hall is an excellent actor. She resembles Christine Chubbuck physically. (That's probably one of the reasons she got the part.) She makes us believe in Christine and her problems, which is no easy task. (People who don't have mental illness find it hard to fake.)
This is a difficult movie to watch, but I felt that the acting was strong, and the message was important. I wish the producers had rolled a statement before the credits saying, "If you, or someone you know, feels and acts like Christine, call this hotline."
We saw the movie at the excellent Little Theatre in Rochester NY. It will work very well on the small screen.
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