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Marina Antunes [Celluloid 10.27.16] drama documentary



Christine Chubbuck was an interesting individual. A young reporter working in Sarasota, Florida, she had a bright future ahead of her. Had she lived, she would likely have moved from local news to regional and maybe even made the jump to national news – she was hungry and talented - instead, Chubbuck will forever be remembered as the reporter who shot herself on air.


Not to be confused with Antonio Campos' biography Christine, Robert Greene's docudrama Kate Plays Christine takes a completely different approach to the material. It stars Kate Lyn Sheil (recognizable from her recent turns on "House of Cards," "Outcast," and "The Girlfriend Experience") as she prepares for a film role in which she'll portray Chubbuck.


Because there's little in the way of footage or information on Chubbuck, Sheil travels to Florida and beings to research the mysterious young woman, tracking down all of the news clippings and video she can find and even calling around and talking to people who knew her and slowly, a fuller picture of who Chubbuck was begins to emerge: an aspiring young reporter with lots of potential but also a woman who was insecure, depressed and angry.



The really interesting thing about Kate Plays Christine is that it's neither a typical documentary nor a drama instead, it's a hybrid of the two. Sheil is playing a version of herself as an actress researching a role and in the process, the movie acts as both a documentary providing an intimate look at an actor's method while also being a scripted drama which explores everything from the role of the media in the dissemination of news - to depression.


Sheil is brilliant and compelling in a demanding role that often has her talking to the camera and candidly sharing insights into how she is building the character of Chubbuck. As the process unravels, there's a sense that we're peeking into not only what made Chubbuck tick but also what made her crack. The act of watching feeds into the sensationalism of the media; the idea that "if it bleeds, it leads." It's a cruel metaphor that Chubbuck became exactly what she was fighting so hard against.


In it's final moments, Kate Plays Christine really hits home, culminating all of the ideas and themes that the film floats into one poignant moment which is delivered in spectacular fashion. So powerful is the movie's last scene that the audience I saw it with was left dumbstruck, most of us sitting through the movie's credits in an uncomfortable silence until lights came up.


As I walked away, I couldn't help but think that Greene's movie would make an excellent double bill with Dan Gilroy's Nightcrawler; both films capture similar themes and ideas in very different ways.

Kate Plays Christine is a demanding watch but those willing to take challenging will not be disappointed.


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