The Sad Story of “Christine”
By Skip Sheffield
“If it bleeds, it leads” was the cynical rallying call of news outlets in the 1970s.
To a great extent it remains true today. That’s what makes the small, independent feature “Christine” so relevant today.
Opening an exclusive engagement at FAU’s Living Room Theaters Nov. 18, “Christine” is not to be confused with Stephen King’s demon-possessed Plymouth. It is about a very real and very tragic figure named Christine Chubbuck. Chubbuck shocked the nation when she committed suicide live on the air on July 15, 1974 at a small television station in Sarasota, Florida.
Christine is played by British actress Rebecca Hall, daughter of Royal Shakespeare Company founder Peter Hall.
Screenwriter Craig Shilowich has written a slightly fictionalized account of the real events that led up to Christine’s drastic action, directed by Antonio Campos. She had failed to progress at a couple of previous stations, and now she finds herself relegated to a tiny market at a station ruled by a gruff, tyrannical manager (Tracey Letts). Christine wanted to do stories of substance and depth. Mike, her boss, wanted her to do crowd-pleasing human interest stories.
Though Christine is co-anchor at tiny WZRB with handsome George Ryan (Michael C. Hall), she yearns to return to a larger market. To make matters worse, at age 29 she lives with her mom Peg (J. Cameron Smith), who often treats her like a child. To make matters even worse, she is still a virgin and has never had a real boyfriend, though she clearly has a crush on handsome George. When George finally asks her to dinner it is not what she expected. Worse, he drops the bombshell he has been picked up by a station in Baltimore. Worse still, he is taking the pretty sports girl with him instead of Christine.
Depression is a terrible thing. Christine struggled with it all her life. Choosing the highly volatile, insecure career of TV newscaster just made matters worse. Rebecca Hall does a masterful job depicting the anger, frustration and sadness that led Christine to her fate. Ironically, Sarasota made national news. Christine’s character has been cited as partial inspiration for the movie “Network,” and continues to be a subject of fascination. In death, Christine Chubbuck achieved the fame she never realized in life.