REVIEW: Christine (2016)

Release Poster – The Orchard; Curzon Artificial Eye

The following is a quick review of Christine – Directed by Antonio Campos

Antonio Campos’ Christine is a biographical drama about the true story of Sarasota news reporter Christine Chubbuck’s suicide in 1974. The film follows Christine Chubbuck (played by Rebecca Hall) during some of the worst days of her life and leads up to her last live broadcast. 

I had been looking forward to Christine for quite some time. I am a big fan of Rebecca Hall and this looked like it was going to be her big breakthrough performance. As we know now – at the time of writing – more than a year after its premiere at the Sundance Film Festival, this film didn’t act as the springboard I imagined it would. The largest awards show that recognized the film were the Independent Spirit Awards, but Hall did not receive the nomination she, honestly, deserved.

Although joined by a strong supporting cast, Rebecca Hall’s performance as Christine Chubbuck overshadows all others and is as terrific as advertised elsewhere. Even in her most odd actions, Hall makes you sympathetic towards her character. Meanwhile, she is also able to properly showcase how isolated and vulnerable Chubbuck probably felt.

Rebecca Hall really is terrific in this role, so much so that I’ll nod in agreement with other reviewers and say that this is her best and most intriguing performance yet. It’s just a shame that the rest of the film around her is so underwhelming and flat.

I am under no illusion that – Christine – a biopic about a local news reporter’s sudden and unexpected suicide is easy to make. However, what I just don’t understand is the film’s purpose for existing. If it is to highlight the maddeningly shocking suicide, then a cynic might say that the film essentially – pardon the expression – buries the lead, as the film doesn’t justify the 119 minute long running time.

Seemingly in an attempt to highlight the accumulation of problems and overpowering weight of depression, the film touches upon lots of different things standing in the way of her happiness. Unrequited love, health issues, and the loneliness of single-life. But also these larger-than-life struggles with media sensationalism and the inner workings and obstacles of an industry dominated by men.

Although all of these issues certainly are interesting, this attention to external issues makes the film seem somewhat unconcerned with the mind of an untreated, despondent, and rejected woman. Ultimately, the film sadly feels more interested in the suicide than the woman it is named after.

This isn’t the first – and probably won’t be the last – time that a sublime performance is given in a film unworthy of being associated with it. And that is, honestly, the feeling I’m left with here. Although it isn’t a bad film, it is an underwhelming biographical film that is elevated immensely by its leading woman’s performance as a news reporter that I wish this film wanted to understand better.

6.5 out of 10

– Jeffrey Rex

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