Director Antonio Campos’s Christine tells the story—or as much of it as possible—of Christine Chubbuck, the first person to commit suicide on live TV. There’s no uncertainty about how the movie will end—with a sudden gunshot and a spray of blood—but it doesn’t feast on that final scene. The picture’s main intent is to probe what little is known about its subject and her sad, conflicted life. This might have been an even grimmer exercise than it is—and be advised, it really is grim—were it not for a carefully detailed script by first-time screenwriter Craig Shilowich and a powerful, self-effacing lead performance by Rebecca Hall, who disappears into the role of an obscurely tormented woman who’s disintegrating before our eyes.
Hall’s Chubbuck is a person who has never been at home in her own skin. She’s slumpy and sardonic, and communicates mostly in sour wisecracks. Her pale face seems to be peering out at us from some terrible murk. The year is 1974, and she’s a reporter for a small ABC affiliate in Sarasota, Florida. We can’t help noticing that she’s not especially distinguished at what she does—her on-camera standups are flat and her early-morning “community news” show, Suncoast Digest, is drably earnest, writes Kurt Loder.