By Megan Bianco
From her impressive supporting turns in The Prestige (2006) and The Town (2010), to brilliant starring performances in Vicky Cristina Barcelona (2008) and The Gift (2015), Rebecca Hall is at the point where an Oscar nomination could be around the corner. And this season might be the moment, given her performance in Antonio Campos’ Christine. No, it’s not a new adaptation of Stephen King’s horror classic, but a biopic on a troubled news reporter.
In 1974 Sarasota, Florida, Christine Chubbuck (Hall) is a local TV reporter who is always on the lookout and aiming for quality news stories. But she’s constantly hard on herself, insecure and feels underappreciated at the TV station. Her superior, Mike (Tracy Letts), prefers to give all his leads to more charismatic reporters like George Ryan (Michael C. Hall), while Christine herself is secretly attracted to George. On top of that, she hates living with her single mother, Peg (J. Smith-Cameron).
The story behind Christine was also the inspiration for Sidney Lumet’s Network (1976), and the tension leading up to Chubbuck’s ending is effectively tight and unnerving, much like the reporter’s own personality. Campos’ direction is fine and strong, but the whole film is carried by Hall’s tour-de-force effort. She doesn’t hold back on showing us how mentally wound-up Chubbuck’s struggles were. The soft cinematography and decision to have a soundtrack of ’70s pop songs helps to make the film’s tone not too overly dramatic and lets Hall do the talking. If there’s anyone who deserves that fifth Best Actress nomination spot, it’s her.