Movie review: Actress plays Christine Chubbuck, who in the 1970s struggled with her career and loneliness. Rating: 3-and-a-half stars out of 4
In “Christine,” Rebecca Hall plays a woman carrying the terrible weight of depression. You can see it in her pulled-down posture, in her perpetually worried expression, in the mane of hair she uses as a blanket, in her way of wandering alone through a party as if it’s a war zone, clutching at the door like a lifeline.
It’s 1974, and Christine Chubbuck is a 29-year-old reporter at a Sarasota, Fla., local news station. She’s nakedly eager for advancement — there’s something wistful about the way she makes earnest to-do lists and carefully analyzes footage of herself — but she’s not good at playing the game. “If it bleeds, it leads,” says her boss (Tracy Letts), enjoying the phrase as he dismisses Christine’s pleas for a more nuanced approach to the news.
Directed by Antonio Campos, “Christine” is based on true events, and I suspect it’s all the more powerful if you don’t know what happens at the end. I did, but the film still gripped me. The small-time-newsroom setting is irresistibly compelling — this movie’s sort of a dark cousin to “The Mary Tyler Moore Show,” whose theme song makes a spot-on appearance. The cast economically creates a believable workplace: the handsome, not-too-bright anchorman (Michael C. Hall), the sweet young camerawoman (Maria Dizzia), the slightly defensive weatherman (Timothy Simons). Caught in flat light, the sets have a tired 1970s hipness, and the cinematography has the fuzziness of old photos blurred soft.
Movie Review ★★★½
‘Christine,’ with Rebecca Hall, Michael C. Hall, Tracy Letts, Maria Dizzia, Timothy Simons, J. Smith-Cameron, Kim Shaw. Directed by Antonio Campos, from a screenplay by Craig Shilowich. 118 minutes. Rated R for a scene of disturbing violence and for language including some sexual references. Sundance (21+), SIFF Cinema Uptown.
But it’s Hall’s performance that jolts “Christine,” carrying the movie on her slumped shoulders. A virgin at nearly 30 (she laughs bitterly when a doctor diagnosing her stomach pains suggests a pregnancy test), she lives with her mother and is achingly lonely. You see, in a scene in which she “interviews” an affectionate couple in a restaurant, her need to reach out, and her utter inability to do so.
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As the story progresses, the dark cloud over Christine seems to loom larger and her voice gets deeper and more guttural, like a cry of pain — she wants, desperately, to be somebody else, but doesn’t know who. The anchorman, on whom Christine has an unrequited crush, makes a passing remark indicating that he might understand her, if he took the time to try. “It’s like we all have these different versions of ourselves,” he says, “competing to be the real us.”