In “Christine,” Rebecca Hall plays Christine Chubbuck, a real-life TV news reporter who made history in Sarasota, Florida, in 1974. Chubbuck was a troubled woman, very lonely and depressed, a virgin at 29, with a crush on the anchorman, played by Michael C. Hall (“Dexter”). She wanted to do more issues-oriented stories and couldn’t stand that the station was jumping on the local TV news trend of “If It Bleeds, It Leads.”
Frustrated both personally and professionally, she convinced the station manager to let her do a segment at the top of the newscast recapping some headlines from the weekend. That’s how, a few weeks before her 30th birthday, Chubbuck sat at the news desk, looked into the camera, and read from a prepared statement on air: “In keeping with Channel 40’s policy of bringing you the latest in blood and guts, and in living color, you are going to see another first: attempted suicide.” Then she pulled a revolver from her handbag below the desk, put the barrel behind her right ear and pulled the trigger.
There is footage of that horrific moment, but no one has ever seen it, because the station manager locked it up and, even after his death, his widow has never released it. The only thing that comes close is this dramatization of Chubbuck’s unhappy life and her shocking death, with Hall’s earnest portrayal at its center. She’s very good, as is Tracy Letts as the station manager she’s constantly at odds with. The supporting cast also includes John Cullum as the station owner.
Director Antonio Campas does a very good job of recreating the look of 1974 local TV news, which looks primitive compared to today’s teleprompter-reading anchors surrounded by swooshing graphics and live shots. In fact, Chubbuck’s station was just then making the transition from shooting film (which had to be developed, cut, and spliced) to videotape, trying to keep up with the rest of the industry.
“Christine” is not an uplifting portrait of a woman adapting. It’s the story of a woman battling depression and her job — and losing at both. At 115 minutes, it’s about 20 minutes too long.
I give it a 6.5 out of 10.