Christine Movie Review
by Phillip Wilcox "Our Movie Demon"
Writer: Craig Shilowich
Director: Antonio Campos
Starring: Rebecca Hall, Michael C. Hall, Tracy Letts, Maria Dizzia, J. Smith-Cameron, Timothy Simons, Kim Shaw, and John Cullum
Running Time: 1 hr 59 mins
Where It Can Be Seen: VOD
“The so-called ‘psychotically depressed’ person who tries to kill herself doesn’t do so out of quote ‘hopelessness’ or any abstract conviction that life’s assets and debits do not square. And surely not because death seems suddenly appealing. The person in whom Its invisible agony reaches a certain unendurable level will kill herself the same way a trapped person will eventually jump from the window of a burning high-rise. Make no mistake about people who leap from burning windows. Their terror of falling from a great height is still just as great as it would be for you or me standing speculatively at the same window just checking out the view; i.e. the fear of falling remains a constant. The variable here is the other terror, the fire’s flames: when the flames get close enough, falling to death becomes the slightly less terrible of two terrors. It’s not desiring the fall; it’s terror of the flames. And yet nobody down on the sidewalk, looking up and yelling ‘Don’t!’ and ‘Hang on!’, can understand the jump. Not really. You’d have to have personally been trapped and felt flames to really understand a terror way beyond falling.” ― David Foster Wallace
In 1976 a satire film by the name of NETWORK was released. It was about an News Anchor who was planning to kill himself on the air but instead has a meltdown, and the News Network sensationalizes and exploits him and what he did. This film came out 2 years after a real life tragic incident happened in a News Station in Sarasota, Florida, on air and in the middle of a news report when 29 year old Christine Chubbuck shot herself, much to everyone's shock. Typically I don't like to go in depth about a film, but I feel it's important to not only write about this particular film, but to write about it's subject matter. Which is a pretty heavy one and something not a lot of people wish to discuss or even bring up, and that is the topic of Depression and Suicide. Now, just to set the record straight, NETWORK was Not a response in any way to what happened with Christine Chubbuck, as the script for NETWORK was written months before the death of Christine. What some may call a bizarre coincidence - I call cosmic synchronicity.
Last year a film called CHRISTINE was released. A year or two before that I had read about news that a biopic was going to be made on Christine Chubbuck and, well, no disrespect intended here, but I was excited about that and was eager to see it. Not out of some morbid fascination with what happened to that poor news reporter, but because when I was growing up I once saw a segment about Christine Chubbuck and her story. It must've been only a half hour but in that 30 minutes I saw a story about a seemingly lonely woman who did something tragic. And it wasn't done in the privacy of her own home or somewhere secluded. It was what seemed like a statement she was trying to make, for all those she felt wasn't listening to her. "Why won't anyone just listen to me?!" She can be heard screaming from the top of her lungs by actress Rebecca Hall in last year's CHRISTINE. I have to say, I have seen Rebecca Hall in plenty of films before this one, but it wasn't until this film that I saw an actor who had flourished into a full blown performer! One whose performance sent chills through out me, spawning a mass of goosebumps that were sustained all through the duration of the film! She really captured a side of Chubbuck that perhaps many people didn't know. The first and second acts of the film we see a very energetic yet withdrawn Christine. She's determined to make her mark on the very mediocre News Station she was a part of. A Station whose rating were plummeting and were desperate to merely stay afloat. It wasn't until a meeting where the phrase "If it bleeds, it leads." was introduced into what could bump up their ratings, that Christine would take offense to and refuse to subscribe to. When she tries to play ball but in her own way, the wall she is trying to break through becomes tougher.
The film's director Antonio Campos and his team including the Production Designer Scott Kuzio, Art Director Molly Bailey, Set Decorator Jess Royal, and Costume Designer Emma Potter, all achieved the highest mark in having us travel back in time to the 1970's and that era! With everything from the equipment they used at a News Station, the Hair & Make-up and Clothes worn, and hell even down to the vehicles! It was all simply divine to watch on screen! Major props also given to the film's score composers Danny Bensi & Saunder Jurriaans. They gave the score something different as it felt off and a little quirky most times. And they knew when moments in the film didn't need a score. There were no major dramatic swell of the strings at any moment. They let the performances be the music and that was refreshing! The moment at which Christine decides what she will do, she goes from energetic and moved with urgent purpose, to a odd and bizarre calm. No music. No over the top dramatic performances. She is more at ease, so much so that the atmosphere is palpable with a certain uneasiness.
Even for myself, someone who knew the story and what was going to happen, I had knots in my stomach during that last act. Just because the way Rebecca Hall plays Christine with certain calm about her. Like it was the calm before the storm so-to-speak. And with a lot of people, this isn't always the case, but with most people in real life, there is a transformation that happens. As if there is an acceptance of the decision in what they feel they must do. A moment that found so affecting was that as she's typing up the words in the report that she will read before the act of shooting herself, a hand appears and is placed on her shoulder to get her attention. The Christine I had seen earlier in the movie would have flinched, would have had a quicker reaction. But instead, she calmly turns her attention to who's behind her. That went to show how at ease she was beforehand. It was one of the most affecting eerie performances and it was done so spectacularly. The aftermath was emotional to watch and stuck with me during the credits. The other cast members who were also in the film, that along with the likes of Dexter's Michael C. Hall, all gave stellar performances that made their moments memorable in the picture. You can tell there was no half-assing going on. And in a film like this, there can't be. CHRISTINE is a revelatory biopic that deserves recognition and praise! It is now available on VOD format!