Christine online movie review - Harrowing with a capital H. One of the great character studies in years
Christine, one of the best films I've seen this year, might appear at first to be about a feminist issue - set in 1974 at a small TV station in Sarasota, Florida, a woman name
d Christine Lubbock (Rebecca Hall) has to contend with her male co-workers and male boss, and where they get preferential treatment (at least seemingly, ultimately) despite being told by her own boss she's the smartest on there - but it's strongest as a depiction of mental illness. This is the subject that actually makes for more compelling subject matter, though it is harsher to see depicted; I cringe watching this film, it's uncomfortable to watch, and despite/because of this it's a brilliant depiction of a bi-polar person and the interior struggle of her life.
There are two fronts this film is successful. The first is the technical aspect. This looks, feels, acted, sounds like a movie from the period in the 70's (you know, back when American cinema was king as far as getting deeper into character and mood and technique and showing a reality moviegoers hadn't been exposed to much before outside of foreign cinema) with Campos and his DP using zoom lenses and shots that linger maybe just a little too long, and audio that sometimes (no, often times) can put us into the state of mind of the character: when Christine is laser-focused, nothing else can detract from her. When she is wary, she may hear the sounds outside that make her a little distracted (there's one scene between Christine and George, played by Michael C Hall, in a car that made me see/hear this). Not to mention the clothes, the music (so much bad 70's pop on the precipice of disco), and how people talked to one another.
The other thing that makes it authentic is how Christine and everyone talks, The dialog here is all about showing the realism of the TV station, and finding the nuance and what surrounds this woman who is very smart. It could be said she has a touch of Asperger's along with the bi-polar, if one wanted to go into a diagnosing-on-the-couch approach. But that takes away from what Campos and Rebecca Hall accomplish with this character. One may be reminded of Nightcrawler from two years ago, also about an ambitious being in the world of news (also, one should say, with a mental or personality disorder of some kind, and access to a police radio for the latest scoop), only while Gyllenhall in that film was a pure sociopath and no lack of communicating what he thinks/feels/sees, Christine's problems are an inability to come out with something all the time.
To be sure she's surrounded by the kind of news culture that has only multiplied exponentially over the past four decades; "If it bleeds, it leads," Christine's boss says, to which Christine reminds him that's a BS catch-phrase. No matter: the pressure is on to get things that people want to see, that brings ratings, and the same "human interest" stories about locals with Strawberry farms or chicken coops won't cut it. But what drew me in to this film was how potent the point of view was for Christine in this world. It's hinted at (or flat out spoken) that she had some previous anxiety/personality/bi-polar disorder issues back in Boston where she used to work, and now being in Sarasota isn't being much of an improvement. So among this news team, where she tries to find her own path and is up against resistance (some understandable, some not), and with friends (Maria Dizza as Jean is as good a supporting performance as from Michael C Hall, and he's really great here), she makes her own problems but never in a way that makes her unsympathetic.
Christine is closer if anything to Taxi Driver as far as a story of someone on the edge of an existence, and it's all the more painful because of what Christine is able and ready to do, her talents and intuition and in her way mix of innocence and cynicism (though mostly disbelief) at the world around her, which includes her own pot-smoking hippie mother. Hall taps into the ball of contradictions in this character, and I was often on the edge of my seat like this was the most intense thriller in years.
And it's in fact all based on a true story; I had known a couple of the broad strokes of the story, the climax in particular, and I almost wish I hadn't. I won't mention what happens to the sometimes awkward, full articulate but "not easy to approach" (as George says to her at one point) Christine by the end of her story, but even knowing it the filmmakers and Hall draw us in so inexorably to her interior and exterior struggles through such precise and heartbreaking storytelling that I can't shake the feeling this will be with me for a while.