Reviewing a film like Christine presents an endearing conundrum for any critic, here going to the very core of the film.
Christine is based on an infamous live-TV event in the 1970’s that occurred on a none-too-prominent television news program, in turn inspiring Paddy Chayefsky’s classic Network, still one of cinema’s greatest satires and treatises on commercial media ever put to screen.
Appropriately referred to in prominent synopses as “the story of 1970s TV reporter Christine Chubbuck,” (Rebecca Hall), events surrounding the journalist are a matter of relatively well-known public record and dissection, this year the basis of not one but two films, with Kate Plays Christine also screening at this year’s Melbourne International Film Festival.
To discuss the plot, and ending in particular in too much detail would take away from the engrossing story which would necessarily be all the more involving for those less than familiar with its content. In this take, however, even those aware of the film’s inevitable conclusion, and what for many will be a shocking ending, too the film’s hook and strongest marketing point, can still very much enjoy the gradual, well-staged build-up to the tension-filled, endmost revelation.
Recreating a 70s newsroom with stylistic flourishes of All The President’s Men and even to an extent Anchorman, coming off Best Picture winner Spotlight, similarly depicting a dogged, frustrated news-team and reporter trying to undercut sensationalism, Christine chronicles a thrilling if somewhat tired environment of filmic news and news-gathering.
Hall’s emotional, ragged performance in the title role carries so much of Christine. Present throughout and ably embroiling the audience in the action, Hall is nicely completed by Dexter’s Michael C. Hall as the show’s lead anchor and Tracy Letts (The Big Short) as a not-unfamiliar if thoroughly engaging station manager.
A fine film shining a light on a dark corner of television history, while many who choose to see it will invariably know what happens, Christine is best watched with as little pre-conception as possible and the full knowledge that its conclusion is powerfully and unmistakably real.
Christine is screening as part of the Melbourne International Film Festival – for tickets head to the Festival website