A 'Television First' Becomes A Compelling Character Study In 'Christine' Christine is a biopic about a TV reporter who committed suicide in a live shot.
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A 'Television First' Becomes A Compelling Character Study In 'Christine'

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A 'Television First' Becomes A Compelling Character Study In 'Christine'

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A 'Television First' Becomes A Compelling Character Study In 'Christine'

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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

A new movie explores a real-life tragedy caught live on camera. It happened in 1974 in Florida. A reporter shot herself in the head during a television newscast. Why? Well, critic Bob Mondello says audiences will be haunted by that question when they see the film "Christine."

BOB MONDELLO, BYLINE: Christine Chubbuck has the community beat at her dismally-ranked Sarasota station. She does three-part investigative reports about zoning and delves deeply into what's known as human interest.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "CHRISTINE")

REBECCA HALL: (As Christine Chubbuck) Here we go, folks. This is my first robbery of the season. Yeah, it's juicy.

MONDELLO: Christine is ambitious, eager to please and really tightly wound, as played by Rebecca Hall. She's not a people person. She has a crush on the station's anchor, for instance, and expresses it by avoiding him.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "CHRISTINE")

MICHAEL C. HALL: (As George) You and I have been working together for over a year now, and we've never gone out and had a drink together.

R. HALL: (As Christine) Well, you've never asked me.

M. HALL: (As George) You're not always the most approachable person.

MONDELLO: Professionally, she's equally out-of-step, especially when her boss starts pushing to get out of the ratings basement.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "CHRISTINE")

TRACY LETTS: (As Michael) It's a simple concept, guys. If it bleeds, it leads. There's a reason this idea is catching fire in the culture right now.

R. HALL: (As Christine) If it bleeds, it leads is not some concept, Mike. It's a catchphrase that you picked up at a conference in Cleveland last month.

LETTS: (As Michael) Chubbuck, this is not debate club.

R. HALL: (As Christine) Well, this is a joke.

MONDELLO: Sharp and abrasive, Christine is ever ready to misinterpret, to turn away, to take offense. In fairness, she's dealing with '70s attitudes that would try anyone's patience.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "CHRISTINE")

LETTS: (As Michael) You know what your problem is, Chubbuck? You're a feminist.

R. HALL: (As Christine) Oh, so you're saying that I'm not fit for a bigger market because I'm a woman?

LETTS: (As Michael) No, I'm saying that there's no respect for institutions of authority. You're the smartest person here. If you took half the energy you use to give me a hard time and just did what I'm asking...

R. HALL: (As Christine) I'm not giving you a hard time. I'm just trying to understand what you're...

LETTS: (As Michael) Just make your stories juicy.

MONDELLO: That Christine is fragile becomes increasingly clear. But while a biopic about her could have been maudlin and movie-of-the-week-ish, director Antonio Campos makes much of "Christine" acerbic, even comic, showing his title character as a study in contradictions, performing weirdly personal puppet shows for children one moment, retreating the next to a pink bedroom with pop music posters, her mom just down the hall. This is a woman who is depressed, unstable.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "CHRISTINE")

M. HALL: (As George) And now let's kick it over to Christine Chubbuck.

R. HALL: (As Christine) Thank you, George.

MONDELLO: And she's furiously acting out, though no one senses until it's too late just how furiously.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "CHRISTINE")

R. HALL: (As Christine) In keeping with the WZRB policy, complete reports of local blood and guts, TV 30 presents what is believed to be a television first.

MONDELLO: It certainly was that - a senseless tragedy of which the film "Christine" rather impressively makes sense. I'm Bob Mondello.

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