I feel like this might be an incredibly rare occurrence but at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, two films premiered dealing with the exact same subject matter, both films with a hugely different approach to it. The first film, one I had the opportunity to check out at the Vancouver International Film Festival, took a mockudrama style tackling, a term I’m coining here. What does that mean? Well, it’s a fake documentary that incorporates a real story while also involving people who aren’t in on the production of the film. The other movie, this one I’m reviewing, took the straightforward 1970s era biopic recount of a true story. What we got is two very different feeling movies.
Christine is the story of Sarasota on-air investigative television news reporter Christine Chubbuck, played by Vicky Christina Barcelona star Rebecca Hall. Constantly honing her camera interview and anchoring skills, she always finds herself battling for screen time, her stories being shelved for lighter and fluffier pieces. Having come back from an incident in Boston that led to a massive bout of depression which prompted her Florida move, rejection starts putting Christine back into a dark mood set, putting her at odds with her boss, her co-workers and her mother, who lives with her in a small apartment. Unable to deal with her stagnancy on the ladder of opportunity, Christine puts a plan in motion that would hopefully make her mark on the news world unforgettable. Unfortunately, it doesn’t.
I feel like my biggest mistake was to watch the other version, Robert Greene’s Kate Plays Christine, before this one. Greene’s film has an actress readying herself to play Chubbock but gives a more unbiased look at a complex woman, letting the viewer question who was more at fault. Christine, instead, goes the route of painting her as a fiercely competitive but wholly emotionally unbalanced feminist who dealt with constant social awkwardness on the edge of confrontation. This may have ultimately soured my full opinion of this film but I do contend that it is an issue of two depictions and the truth of character to reveal the reality of who Christine Chubbuck was.
Hall delivers a really great performance that director Antonio Campos and cinematographer Joe Anderson shoot incredibly close and almost intrusively, one that could garner some notice in this awards season. Hall seems to channel this troubled newswoman effortlessly, in a look that was constantly reminiscent of Shelley Duvall, in case that crazy biopic ever happens. I also must make mention of supporting actor heavyweight Tracy Letts, who turns in his third great performance this year after Indignation and Imperium. I feel my bias for Robert Greene’s work will show through in this review as I had major issues with how Christine was presented and, to be honest, the last ten minutes of the film rub me the wrong way entirely, pulling a lot of wind out of the sails. Still, if you haven’t seen Kate Plays Christine, this film will be an effective true story drama. 3/5