Kate Plays Chris­tine

Pasatiempo - - PASATIEMPO - Kate Plays Chris­tine Kate Plays Chris­tine Kate Plays Chris­tine

Chris­tine Chub­buck was a tele­vi­sion jour­nal­ist work­ing for a lo­cal sta­tion in Sara­sota, Florida, in 1974, when she shot and killed her­self on the air. She was soon to turn thirty and had lately been dis­sat­is­fied with her pro­fes­sional life as well as her love life. She was sin­gle, lonely, and pro­foundly de­pressed. Forty years later, an ac­tress from New York City, Kate Lyn Sheil (House of Cards, Lis­ten Up Philip), was cast to play Chub­buck in a movie about her dra­matic death that would be shot on lo­ca­tion in Florida with a lo­cal cast. is a documentary about the mak­ing of that fea­ture film, though no men­tion is made of what be­came of it, as though what hap­pened be­hind the scenes was ul­ti­mately more in­ter­est­ing or more im­por­tant than the campy soap-opera-style biopic that was orig­i­nally in­tended.

fol­lows Sheil through her process of pre­par­ing for the role and what ap­pears to be a growing ob­ses­sion with Chub­buck. Sheil is a se­ri­ous-minded thirty-one-year-old, also sin­gle, who is de­ter­mined to do jus­tice to Chub­buck’s life by care­fully re­search­ing who she was as a per­son and what drove her not only to com­mit sui­cide but to do so in such a pub­lic way. It is dif­fi­cult to say how truly “ob­sessed” Sheil was or whether edit­ing has cre­ated her in­ten­sity of fo­cus, but Sheil’s ded­i­ca­tion to her craft and her de­sire to respect the mem­ory of the woman she is at­tempt­ing to em­body are mes­mer­iz­ing and even hon­or­able. She in­ter­views for­mer co-work­ers, psy­chi­a­trists, Sara­sota his­to­ri­ans, jour­nal­ists, and oth­ers to get a sense of Chub­buck and her be­hav­ior in the weeks and months lead­ing up to her death. She spends much of the movie try­ing to track down video footage of Chub­buck, be­cause she has no idea what her voice sounded like or how she car­ried her­self, but this proves elu­sive be­cause the morn­ing show Chub­buck worked for was broad­cast live and rarely recorded. Sheil trans­forms her­self phys­i­cally with a wig and con­tact lenses, and as the story pro­gresses, it is not al­ways clear whether Sheil is in or out of char­ac­ter. Her des­per­a­tion to do more than “play dress-up” im­bues the movie with an edge-of-your-seat-thriller qual­ity.

ex­plores ethics in acting, sto­ry­telling, and jour­nal­ism, while also delv­ing into women’s per­cep­tions of their lives over the last half-cen­tury, along with chang­ing at­ti­tudes to­ward de­pres­sion and men­tal ill­ness. As Sheil pre­pares for the movie’s un­nerv­ing fi­nal scene, spe­cial ef­fects de­sign­ers hover, af­fix­ing blood squibs to her head un­der­neath her wig. She seems to feel that by pulling the trigger of the prop gun, she will be con­tribut­ing to the sen­sa­tion­al­iz­ing of tele­vised vi­o­lence that she has learned Chub­buck railed against. This in­ner con­flict makes it seem as though if she pulls the trigger, she will not only be killing Chris­tine all over again but an­ni­hi­lat­ing a part of her­self, too. — Jen­nifer Levin

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