When we first see Christine (Rebecca Hall), a reporter for a small television station in Sarasota, Florida, she is sitting at an empty table in front of some Television cameras. She is practicing her interview techniques pretending to question President Nixon about Watergate. A back door opens and in is wheeled a new piece of equipment, being received by Jean (Maria Dizzia), a producer at the station. Christine questions Jean if she thinks on her last report she was too sympathetic. Jean replies that “You can never be too sympathetic.”
We cut to Jean and Christine watching a report that Christine is getting ready to go on air within tonight’s newscast. Christine keeps nitpicking her performance, where Jean keeps telling her that her performance is fine. The news director (Tracy Letts) stops by and tells the two women that they have a meeting in five minutes. As soon as he leaves the two women make fun of him, doing bad imitations of what he just told them.
In the meeting, the news director gets into an argument with Christine because she wants to work more on her zoning story and not go out and cover a fire. Christine argues that the news should be more issue oriented and not just cut and dried news stories.
The team gets ready for the newscast, and Christine is still making changes to her piece. She decides three minutes before her piece is to air to use a bit on film that she had cut earlier. Christine gets Jean to cut the piece as she puts on her blazer, grabs her copy and heads to the studio, arriving seconds before she is introduced. She intros the piece and then sits back, pleased with how it all came together, even getting a wink from the anchor of the news, George (Michael C. Hall).
We cut to Christine singing loudly and passionately with a John Denver song as she drives down the road. When she passes a car, she checks to see if her window is all the way up. We then see that Christine is performing a puppet show for some sick kids. After her show, she talks with a nurse about problems she has been having with her stomach.
She meets with her mom (J. Smith-Cameron) for dinner at a local restaurant. We see that their relationship seems more like two sisters than a mother/daughter relationship. At home, we see that they live together and Christine doesn’t want to talk about celebrating her birthday.
The next day, Christine gets into a heated discussion with the news director over the direction of the station’s news product. He wants them to start doing stories that will get ratings, citing the term “If it bleeds, it leads.” Christine sees this as the wrong way to go, believing that news should inform and tackle issues, not just air reports about car wrecks and house fires. The news world is changing, and Christine is going to have to make compromises if she wants to stay in the news game, compromises she might not be able to handle.
Director Antonio Campos brings us this film based on a real person, Christine Chubbuck, a troubled and awkward reporter who had lofty goals but was probably destined to work in small markets for the rest of her career. Campos does the almost impossible, making Christine a sympathetic character, humanizing a very complicated person who had a lot of problems. The year the film takes place is 1974, due to the Vietnam War and Watergate, the news world was changing, and Christine was trying to adapt, but not very well. Like the film camera that Christine uses, she is out of date with a world that is changing quickly.
Much of the credit for making a rigid and sometimes unlikable person come to life is Rebecca Hall. Her performance is dazzling, as she makes this socially awkward, determined person come to life. Hall has Christine’s mannerism down, making her a person who has trouble relating to ideas such as dating or dealing with a boss you don’t agree with. Hall works well with the other actors in the film, especially Michael C. Hall, who plays George, the cocky anchor that Christine is so enamored with. Hall’s body language changes when Christine is in the room with George as if she doesn’t quite know how to inhabit the same space. Maria Dizzia, has excellent chemistry with Hall, playing Christine’s one and only friend. J. Smith-Cameron is tremendous as Christine’s mom who is self-centered and never actually sees how troubled her child is.
The production design by Scott Kuzio and art direction by Molly Bailey are impressive, as they recreate a small TV station in the mid-70s down to the details of working quad tape machines and hand cranking film viewers. The dialogue, by screenwriter Craig Shilowich, is sharp and energetic, giving the newsroom a look and feel that seems real.
While I did not enjoy the final scenes of the film, those can be overlooked because of the Academy Award level performance by Rebecca Hall. You may not always like Christine, but because of Hall, you get to know her and understand why she ultimately did what she did. My Rating: Full Price
My movie rating system from Best to Worst: 1). I Would Pay to See it Again 2). Full Price 3). Bargain Matinee 4). Cable 5). You Would Have to Pay Me to See it Again
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