Campos’ magnificent film tells the true, tragic story of young newswoman Christine Chubbuck and her brief career in the 1970s. It’s a gripping and consistently compelling film and it features a starring turn from Rebecca Hall that is finally the performance I’ve been waiting for from her. Hall is realiably solid, but has typically fallen short of greatness until this performance. But with this turn, she enters the ranks of giants in my opinion. I honestly walked out of this film feeling like I had maybe never seen as good a treatment of this particular kind of mental illness; that’s down to both Hall and the screenplay, by Craig Shilowich. The film delves into the extreme stress of her job and into the deep depression and paranoia that plagues Christine and makes you feel both really deeply. The film also does something that these kinds of films rarely do with female characters, which is allow her to feel and exhibit deep, intense rage. That’s typically a part of a “troubled” male character, but rarely a female character. The script refuses to demonize the people around Christine; her job is high stress and her standards for herself are artificially high. The people around her aren’t saints, but neither are they bad, unlikable people. Tracy Letts is wonderful as the angry station manager who reveals a surprising depth near the end of the film. Michael C. Hall is fantastic as the charming news anchor who tries to reach Christine but finds himself held at arm’s length by her intense social anxiety. Maria Dizzia is wonderful as a sympathetic co-worker and John Cullum gets off a great cameo as the visiting owner of the station. The movie just really nails the experience of depression, paranoia, rage and social anxiety – as someone who has, in the past, suffered, in a mild way, from all of these things, I felt absolute truth in Hall’s performance. Her raw emotions are always powerful. The film ultimately becomes an experience of dread; if you know where Christine’s story ends, and I did, the film becomes a painful experience of hoping against your own knowledge that Christine will find the help that she needs. There are moments of hope where it seems that things may be turning around for Christine and these moments are somehow more painful than the dark moments because we know that the hope contained in them is false and temporary. Christine didn’t get the attention it deserved; Hall probably won’t get the Oscar nomination that she deserves for this, but she’s got my attention. She’s entered the ranks of essential actresses with this brilliant performance in this harrowing, gripping film. 4 stars.
tl;dr – gripping true story of troubled journalist is brought vividly, tragically to life by Rebecca Hall’s brilliant performance in this compelling exploration of mental illness. 4 stars.