Christine

 

starstarstarhalf

 


A great performance in an interesting film which nevertheless falls short.

 
Christine

Rebecca Hall

 

It's generally understood - and rightly so - that a critic reviewing a film should not disclose any late twists or developments in the plot. In the case of Christine, however things are much less clear-cut than usual. It is apparent from the start that the Christine of the title is Christine Lubbock and it is stated that the film with Rebecca Hall in the title role is based on a true story. Consequently, anyone who has heard tell of this TV presenter who worked for a news station in Sarasota, Florida in the 1970s will know from the outset where the film is headed. Indeed, quite recently the off-beat documentary Kate Plays Christine which recorded another attempt to film her story has familiarised newcomers with the events in her life. Yet the fact remains that Antonio Campos's Christine written by Craig Shilowich chooses to proceed chronologically so that just where everything is leading is not apparent unless you come to it with previous knowledge.

 

In the circumstances, I choose not to disclose the film's conclusion even though it is central to what makes the real-life tale worth telling. What compels us to watch closely is the performance of Rebecca Hall in a totally   convincing American characterisation which goes deep into portraying a woman dogged by depression. A complex person, Christine is confident in her work and ambitious yet shy enough not to take any initiative to declare her interest in a fellow employee, George (Michael C. Hall). In addition, her determination to succeed does not prevent her from standing by her principles, which cause her to spurn the increasing sensationalism of TV crime reporting. This becomes all the more acute because her boss (Tracy Letts) knows that the station may collapse if viewing figures cannot be upped and adopting cruder reportage is a means to that end.

 

Apart from Hall who is terrific, the film benefits from the authentic feel of the TV station setting and from a very accomplished supporting cast including in the role of Christine's mother the admirable J. Smith-Cameron from Kenneth Lonergan's Margaret. But unfortunately, there is also a downside that is not insignificant. I don't quarrel with Shilowich's choices when it comes to expressing Christine's motivation, but I do feel that his screenplay needed tightening up considerably. Christine lasts for two hours and, despite Hall inhabiting her role so fully, it lacks through the absence of any real sense of forward momentum the dramatic tension requisite if the film is to grip its audience fully. As it happens the rather eccentric music score doesn't help either, but it is the drawn out screenplay that is the true weakness here. Nevertheless, Rebecca Hall, one of our best and most reliable actresses, is at the top of her form.

 

MANSEL STIMPSON

 

Cast: Rebecca Hall, Michael C. Hall, Tracy Letts, Maria Dizzia, J. Smith-Cameron, Tim Simons, Kim Shaw, John Cullum, Morgan Spector, Jayson Warner Smith, Kimberley Drummond, Lindsay Ayliffe.

 

Dir Antonio Campos, Pro Melody C. Roscher and Craig Shilowich, Screenplay Craig Shilowich, Ph Joe Anderson, Pro Des Scott Kuzio, Ed Sofia Subercaseaux, Music Danny Bensi and Saunder Jurriaans, Costumes Emma Potter.

 

Great Point Media/The Wonder Club/Fresh Jade Limited/Borderline Films-Curzon Artificial Eye.
120 mins. USA/UK. 2016. Rel: 27 January 2017. Cert. 15.