Christine Review: Rebecca Hall Owns This Generic Biopic

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As a film, Antonio Campos’ Christine falls into a predictable template. Under-appreciated at work, her difficult relationship with her mother, and the excitement for a date that turns out to be a ruse, the true events surrounding Christine Chubbuck (a never-better Rebecca Hall) play like a stylistically toned down version of Carrie on screen. There’s a slow build entirely based on character and that character’s surroundings that end in horror. It’s an interesting take on Chubbuck’s story, tapping into her insecurities and depression not only to build suspense, but to encourage understanding.

For those unaware, broadcast reporter Christine Chubbuck took her own life on the air in 1974, doing so after a speech that accused her station of sensationalism. It’s a black mark in television history, one that stung to the core of news stations everywhere as programs transitioned from the standard news reading to the local, small-time bloodshed that spiked ratings. It’s no surprise that Christine falls on the same side of the argument about the responsibility of the news that its main character does. We see it through the slow build as her work is continually rejected and her general viewpoint is shot down. But the volume at which the film delivers its message is deafening. At its worst, Christine is an obvious cautionary tale on a subject it’s audience likely hasn’t ever had to debate (it falls into the class of indie films that merely preach to the choir). But at its best, it’s a detail-oriented character study anchored by a magnificent performance.

The film may not offer much in terms of originality, but Rebecca Hall is terrific in every imaginable way. She’s sympathetic through her every day insecurities. She’s lovable through her kindness and sheltered innocence. She’s uncomfortable when she presents her ideas, some of which are genuinely good, in a manner that’s just left of center. Subtle when she wants to be and big when she has to be, Hall single handedly commands Christine. Even through mundane filmmaking and a predictable story structure, Hall saves the film with a talent she’s always hinted at but never fully let loose, until now. With that, through all its bleakness, Christine leaves us something to look forward to. Grade: B+

By Matt Dougherty

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