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Christine

Year: 2016
Production Co: Borderline Films
Director: Antonio Campos
Writer: Craig Shilowich
Cast: Rebecca Hall, Tracy Letts, Michael C Hall

Rebecca Hall has always had a dignified stillness as an actress, and she's always bought something extra to great movies like The Prestige, The Town and The Gift and even thankless roles like those of Iron Man 3 or Transcendence.

So it was a great pleasure to see her really sink her teeth into a movie that's actually about the character itself rather than some grand tale going on around her. She plays Christine Chubbuck, the newscaster who – during a live cross in a July 1974 broadcast on her station of WXLT in Sarasota, Florida – read a short, off-script report, pulled a gun out of her handbag and shot herself in the head, dying in hospital a few days later.

I'm not sure where screenwriter Craig Shilowich (who'd go on to Netflix hit Marriage Story a few years later) got all his research about Christine's co-workers and the state of her life in the weeks leading up to the dreadful act, but it feels as real and authentic as if he'd been there to see it all.

In her late 20s, Christine is ambitious but feels a little bit stifled at her job, wanting to do bigger and better things with her career and jostling against the constraints of what WXLT can offer her. She has a fiery but fruitful relationship with her smart station owner/producer boss, Michael (Tracy Letts), driving him crazy even while he knows how good she is and how much more effective a journalist she could be.

She lives with her mother, sharing a fairly weird relationship where they're almost like former best friends-turned tolerant roommates, especially when her mother meets a man she's interested in and Christine turns into a jealous, pouting teenager over it.

She has a barely-conscious love life, holding a torch for co-worker and station anchor George (Michael C Hall) that neither one of them seem brave enough to act on, and their other co-workers and colleagues like technicians and editors all swirl around forming part of Christine's emotional milieu.

It was actually less about plot mechanics for me than watching Hall do her thing as the lead character (although, much like Titanic, The Hindenburg, United 93 or dozens of other movies where we know how horribly it ends up, there's an impending sense of hollow-throated doom throughout). Director Antonio Campos and his team have built what looks to be a very authentic mid 70s Florida, but neither it nor the cinematography are very interesting (apart from some scenes of the broadcast quality standards of the day).

It's all about Christine herself, how interesting and subtle the character is, and Hall shines. She's socially awkward, smart, driven, clueless, uncertain, assertive, neurotic, robotic and emotional all at once – like real people are and very unlike most characters in cinema are. If you sometimes need nothing more from a movie than a great actor filling out a well-written role, look no further.

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