Christine ★★★★

I’d still contend that the filmmakers were fully conscious of every accusation of exploitation you might lob at this. I don’t have a practical response for any of them; if you think it’s tasteless, I certainly can understand why. But for me it is movie-as-empathy-machine 101 and honors its subject in every respect, especially through the unnerving, compassionate brilliance of Rebecca Hall’s performance which I truly feel is one of the best of the decade. It’s a very strong cast in general, but Tracy Letts and J. Smith-Cameron are playing to familiar strengths whereas Hall (and, actually, Maria Dizzia, who adds a welcome injection of warmth to the film as one of Chubbuck’s attempted confidantes) seems to come from nowhere with her supercharged interpretation of a complete person. Chubbuck does not emerge here as a caricature; she is a full-bodied investigation of anxiety, awkwardness, depression whose discomfort will register impeccably with the bulk of those watching. It’s so much more remarkable a feat of acting than something like Renée Zellweger‘s empty quirk-ridden illustration of Judy Garland a few years later. Regardless of how accurate Christine is to the truth behind this mystery that’s morbidly absorbed many of us, it is correct to eschew the nuts and bolts of that mystery in favor of seeking out the underlying human. In the moment it makes more sense than it probably ever did to anyone but the real Chubbuck, which is why I think it succeeds.

Just a few short years ago I was still unable to play Blu-ray discs on my setup but now here I am, bougie and insufferable, annoyed because Sony chose only to release this as a recordable BD-R disc without any of the extras so to get a worthwhile physical copy I had to buy the DVD. Petty matters in the grand scheme, I know, but it does make me wish this had found a larger audience — although then again, perhaps the elements that made it so offensive to certain parties will assure that of remaining impossible.

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