Death On Camera

Rebecca Hall’s  performance should get an Oscar look

Film | by Jorge Ignacio Castillo

Christine
Roxy Theatre
Opens Friday 25
rating-3-5

In 1974, Sarasota news reporter Christine Chubbuck responded to management pressures for more exciting stories by blowing her brains off on live TV. Chubbuck was the first person to ever commit suicide in front of a camera (it has been copied since), and the act has become a thing of myth. People haven’t stopped looking for graphic evidence, despite assurances all tapes have been destroyed.

Since there’s no mystery about Chubbuck’s fate, Christine focuses on the many factors that led her to take such drastic decision, without fiddling much with morbid details.

As depicted in the film, Chubbuck (Rebecca Hall, Vicki Christina Barcelona) was the smartest reporter in the newsroom. Christine nursed hopes to go to a bigger market than Sarasota, Florida, but was aware of her shortcomings: an abrasive personality off-camera and unremarkable looks. Christine was also struggling with depression, infertility and an unrequited crush on the news anchor (Michael C. Hall, Dexter).

Thanks to a wily script, the film gets us inside Chubbuck’s head and allows us to understand why she thought her world had come to an end. Christine saw people following their own path (the station owner, the man she was infatuated with, her mother) as personal slights, but was unable to ask for help. No wonder those around her were oblivious to her pain.

Directed by Antonio Campos (Simon Killer), the most disturbing aspect of Christine is how relatable she is. Her career struggles are common to most driven women saddled with aging male bosses fearing for their jobs. Not surprisingly, the movie’s biggest asset is a powerhouse performance by Hall, who builds a sympathetic character without betraying the integrity of the person who inspired it. Her work is also physical: the actress convincingly transforms from striking to plain without prosthetics.

If Christine wasn’t an indie struggling with distribution, I would call Hall a shoe-in for an Oscar nomination.