If you were around in the 1970s, you may remember when newscaster Christine Chubbuck shot herself live on the air during a broadcast. In this lurid portrayal of the events leading up to her suicide, director Antonio Campos (Simon Killer) follows Chubbuck (Rebecca Hall from Christopher Nolan’s excellent 2006 magician-based thriller The Prestige) as she rapidly approaches her 30th birthday. Her life is monotonous and stagnant. She’s a virgin living with her mother and an unrequited love for her co-worker George Ryan (Dexter’s Michael C Hall)—woes that accumulate and add to her pre-existing depression and suicidal tendencies.
After an office outburst, Chubbuck convinces her boss to cover a restaurant shooting, all the while concealing a revolver in her purse. As the tension mounts, technical difficulties force Chubbuck to ad-lib, which she does by pulling the gun and shooting herself behind the ear. Viewers will feel jolted by Chubbuck’s suicide despite knowing beforehand the context of the film, but Hall’s performance as the tortured journalist is enough to tug heartstrings and jerk tears as she captures Chubbuck’s self-deprecation through tense grimaces and panic-infused breakdowns.
Ultimately, Christine lacks the personal attachment or testimonies to portray Chubbuck as a fully dimensional character, though Campos’ attempts to build a divide between audience and subject seem designed to keep us from any sense of comfort. We observe her always from a distance, as a viewer would watching the news; we see Chubbuck through a lens of a lens, furthering ourselves from a woman we’ll never be able to understand and distancing us from her pain. (Kim Jones)
Center for Contemporary Arts,