Release Date: Nov. 11, 2016
Running Time: 110 minutes
When it comes to local and national TV news, we all know that old adage that “if it bleeds, it leads.” Christine director Anton Campos and screenwriter Craig Shilowich investigate the morality of this decades-old ratings-grabbing practice against the tragic final days of Sarasota, Florida, TV reporter Christine Chubbuck. The Gift’s Rebecca Hall portrays Chubbuck, who battled depression for years before she eventually shot herself during a live news broadcast on WXLT-TV on July 15, 1974. She would die 14 hours after she announced to her audience that she would commit a first on TV: “attempted suicide.” Campos and Shilowich depict Chubbuck as a reporter who struggles to find the balance between responsible community journalism and sensationalism that her station manager wants and that could potentially land her a job in a bigger TV market. Her unrequited love for a colleague (Michael C. Hall) also contributes to her downward spiral. Not that Christine wants to or unintentionally assign blame to the staff of WXLT-TV for Chubbuck’s actions. Case in point: there’s one deftly staged sequence designed to misdirect the intentions of one station employee to show their concern for Chubbuck. But obviously this helps to place in context Chubbuck’s decision to kill herself on live TV. Christine offers a sympathetic portrait of a woman who cannot overcome the mental illness that sadly gets the best of her. Rebecca Hall is perhaps a tad too theatrical in her approach to playing Chubbuck, which is a problem that’s shared by her fellow cast members. But Hall manages to tap into the fears and insecurities that haunt Chubbuck to reveal a quiet, desperate person who is overwhelmed by her professional demands and dissatisfied with her social shortcomings. The actual footage of Chubbuck’s suicide, which has not shown publicly since it aired live, is reportedly under lock and key. Given Christine’s lack of enthusiasm for TV news’ lust for blood, director Anton Campos unsurprisingly handles Chubbuck’s suicide in a straightforward manner that, while shocking, avoids exploiting his subject. He also resists turning Chubbuck into a martyr for a cause. In Christine, Chubbuck is not seen campaigning against the station manager’s mandate to find juicer stories with added shock value. She is seen trying to fulfil his orders—she just doesn’t know how to do it, and this creates much of the conflict between Chubbuck and her station manager, who is played with only so much patience by Tracey Letts. Per Christine, Cubbuck was a troubled person whose workplace anxieties contributed to her suicide. Would she have tried to commit suicide on live TV under different circumstances? No one knows. But this does not make her death any less tragic.
Aired: Nov. 10, 2016
Web site: https://www.facebook.com/ChristineFilm/