Antonio Campos, USA, 2016, 119 min.
Christine, based on a true story, covers the final weeks of TV news reporter Christine Chubbuck’s life leading up to her live-on-television suicide in 1974. Rebecca Hall plays the titular character well, showing her professional and personal problems that may have led to that fateful decision.
The film mostly centers on her work at a failing local news station in Sarasota, Florida. Early on we see the station manager (Traci Letts) pushing everyone, including Christine, to start looking for juicier stories. The times are changing and the optimistic yet bland human-interest stories that Christine worked on aren’t playing well anymore.
“If it bleeds it leads.” he says. Christine thinks that is BS. It’s a buzz-word phrase he heard at a seminar. She’s definitely smart and good at her job, but she is slow in adjusting her ways.
Some coworkers aren’t and seem to understand the new media landscape. Christine’s best friend Jean (Maria Dizzia), tries to let Christine in on a story she has been developing on her own. But Christine appears self-centered and difficult and never has time to listen.
This mirrored in Christine’s home-life with her mother Peg (J. Smith-Cameron), and in Christine’s relationship with the lead anchor George (Michael C. Hall). She never seems to listen or understand what other people are trying to tell her.
It becomes painfully clear that this is a symptom of some sort of depression. What most people can handle is just too much for her to cope with and things keep piling on to make it harder and harder for her.
That is the problem with the film. Even though on the surface it is well-acted and directed, it doesn’t go deep enough. I never felt the depression, and although I sympathized with Christine’s plight, it never made me feel what she must have felt to do what she ended up doing.
Like I said earlier, most people can cope with what was happening to her, even when you add on the health issues she was experiencing at the time. Depression is illogical, and the film never makes you feel the irrational weight that comes with it.
That’s why Lars Von Trier’s Meloncholia is so effective. It portrays depression alongside the destruction of our entire planet. Christine has some good film-making, but it shows you the depression instead of immersing you in it. That means the story only works on one level: the morbid sense of inevitability you get because you know what is going to happen at the end.