Christine ★★★★

I am definitely sympathetic to the argument that this dramatization of the late life of Christine Chubbuck, the Sarasota local news reporter who shot herself on the air in 1974, is pointless; I've made the same argument about Compliance and, to a lesser extent, United 93 -- glorified snuff films, in many ways, to titillate our most lurid sensibilities. But I would argue that this film doesn't reduce a real-life tragedy to mere gawking entertainment -- actually, it humanizes it, expands upon it, allows us to reclassify it as an aspect of the world as we all experience it. In the hands of director Antonio Campos and (especially) actress Rebecca Hall, Chubbuck becomes a three-dimensional embodiment of stymied hopes and flawed social impulses that will be familiar, second-hand if nothing else, to nearly everyone watching. Thus, for me, the film plays as both profoundly compassionate -- you feel you know her and those around her, and you understand the depth of her frustration even as you cannot fully comprehend her final actions -- and as something exceptionally universal: an honest portrait of a workplace and family life, both flawed but both friendly or loving in their fashion, that's rendered with impressive realism and even humor -- and, as far as I could tell, totally free of condescension (even when it sets a scene in an easily mockable '70s self-help therapy session) thanks largely to uniformly excellent performances. And the finale -- after the decisive moment -- is among the most moving I can recall, a perfect combination of irony and palpable grief. A fascinating look at both a woman and a time on the precipice of agonizing defeat.

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