Saturday, November 5, 2016

Christine (Brockway)

Tropic Sprockets by Ian Brockway


While some of us may have breezed through the 1970s with "The Planet of the Apes" toys, 45 rpm records, jello and shag carpeting, for others it was no joy, as in the case of Christine Chubbuck, a passionate and dedicated TV journalist who suffered with depression.

"Christine" directed by Antonio Campos (Simon Killer) is the story of her life at age 29, as a small-town TV reporter in Sarasota in 1974. Actor / director Rebecca Hall delivers a spot on, flawless performance as the fiery yet painfully self-deprecating Chubbuck. To her credit, Hall highlights her discipline and terrific work ethic as well as her crippling struggle.

Day after day, the reporter yearns to bring a stirring human interest stories to the public, but she feels increasingly confined by her mundane assignments, covering chicken raising and strawberry picking, along with her talk show segment, Suncoast Digest.  Chubbuck's only outlet is the occasional eye contact with news anchor George (Michael C. Hall) and some volunteer work at Sarasota Memorial Hospital, performing puppet shows to children.

In an effort to receive edgier material, Chubbuck gets a police radio and goes to a fire. Rather than report the fire itself, she interviews the victim who is convinced of a personal conspiracy. Elated, Chubbuck goes to her director, Mike (Tracy Letts)  who harshly pushes her to produce "juicy" or sensational segments, only to be aloof to her endevours in the end.

The journalist's home life is no easy respite. She is stressed out by living with her mom (J. Smith-Cameron) and her mom's boyfriend (Jayson Warner Smith). Chubbuck has never had a steady date and is still a virgin. She also wishes for kids of her own but is cheated in this with the discovery of an ovarian cyst. To combat these disappointments, she throws herself into her work.

One day, Christine gets word of an impromptu visit by station owner Bob Andersen (John Cullum) and grows very anxious. Ranting in full view of her co-workers, she berates her boss Mike and his wife.  Needless to say, there is no love lost.

Through her research on gun sales, Chubbuck develops an interest in calibers.

Presented in a deceptively objective manner "Christine" highlights the emotive and diverse performance of Rebecca Hall, who is a wonder. As a living person, far from an urban legend, Hall gives this woman a galvanic energy as well as some daunting porcupine quills. This is a talented woman stuck deeply in her shell. One feels The Sword of Damocles above.

While having the quality of a dispassionate short story, "Christine" is by no means a thriller. It is an honest character study and cautionary tale urging us to recognize Chubbock's talent, subverted in a not so positive hunger for titillating news stories at any cost.

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