This “Christine” review tells the tragic true story of Christine Chubbuck, a 1970s local TV news reporter. Chubbuck struggled mightily with depression and professional frustrations while striving to advance in her career.
“Christine” Review (2016): Riveting Chronicle of Ravaging Mental Illness
Films that Forever Matter Series
by John Smistad
I once worked in local television news and sports broadcasting.
After a few years and a couple of small to medium market hitches in Texas, I came to recognize that I did not have near the (to quote the late, great comedian George Carlin) “Dig Me” show biz mentality to stay with it for long. Most of the other folks who toiled alongside me during that time certainly did have the requisite egos, believe me. However, none of them to near the desperate extent of the tormented soul revealed in “Christine”. At least not to my knowledge, that is. After all, who among us can know what goes on when one is alone? In “Christine” we see this troubled woman, the late TV reporter Christine Chubbuck, alone in her tortured world a lot. And it is far from a pleasant place either to be or to behold.
Rebecca Hall (“The Gift”, “Iron Man 3”) is searing as Chubbuck in this “Christine” Review.
The character’s fate I won’t reveal if you are not already familiar with the shocking circumstances of her story from the 1970s. Hall’s piercingly unsettling portrayal of a young woman in the throes of mental illness is bound to linger with you for a good while. It certainly has with me.
Chubbuck is relentlessly single-minded in her tenacious drive to move on and up to a top-rated market. She is talented and quite often personable. She actually hatches the strikingly progressive idea of a kind of “reality television”, although she is incapable of effectively articulating such. Chubbuck suggests to her irascible News Director (Tracy Letts of Amazon Prime Video’s “Divorce”) that she chronicles the lives of ordinary people. And then present these stories to the struggling station’s limited viewing audience in an effort to boost paltry ratings. But this notion, along with practically everything else she proposes, is derailed before it can get on track as a result of Chubbuck’s almost complete (and painfully oblivious) lack of social skills or an internal filter. Thus, any real hope of advancing her career is stifled practically before it can begin.
A performance at once touching, harrowing and heartbreaking.
Personal fave Rebecca Hall delivers a hauntingly memorable manifestation of the mousy, vacant-eyed Chubbuck here. This explosively gifted actress gives us a woman who is fully aware that she has an insidious sickness (“one of her moods” as her roommate’s mother chooses to classify it). Yet she does little to address it. Instead, Chubbuck chooses to ignore her troubling symptoms. She behaves as if they will simply go away and never return. At one point we see her refusing a doctor’s suggestion of a mood-stabilizing med of the moment. Chubbuck says that she doesn’t like the way these psyche drugs make her feel. And with each self-defeating choice, a profoundly troubled woman doesn’t give herself even the most remote chance of standing strong against her merciless disease.
Director Antonio Campos and Cinematographer Joe Anderson…
The director and cinematographer mesh their respective crafts together magnificently in creating an authentic mid-’70s sensation with “Christine”. I came of age in this decade of the “Smiley Face” and Polyester. And you may need to have at least a somewhat clear recollection of the period to fully appreciate what I’m referring to with this observation. Still, if you’re not hip to what was happenin’ back when we all earnestly encouraged each other to “Have a nice day.”, be mindful of this film’s tone. A singularly remarkable era is reflected in both the sensibility of the culture, and by way of the muted and yellow hues reminiscent of the faded pages of a well-worn book. Do this, and you will be transported right smack dab into the middle of the pervasive vibe and attitude that was uniquely indicative of this bygone, bawdy and boisterous “experience”.
There is a prominent and enduring message in this “Christine” Review.
I came away after having watched “Christine”. The American healthcare community has introduced remarkable advancements in the detection and treatment of human mental and emotional deterioration since this film was set. Recognition by someone, anyone, who knows an individual suffering from these too often times potentially devastating issues must be proactive in helping them. Foremost in this regard is facilitating access to professional help in battling a burden for which they are not responsible. A very real, very destructive, disease over which they have no control without dedicated support. Somebody has got to genuinely care.
Had that somebody been there with persistence for Christine Chubbuck, chances are more than reasonable that she would not have become merely a macabre footnote in our history as a country.