One of my favorite things that I did in college was write movie reviews for the student paper. I love watching movies, so writing about them was like ‘ok yes’. Without sounding too highfalutin, I do believe film is one of the greatest tools we have as humans to connect. The experience of watching a movie can be downright soul-crushing or completely entrancing, and that is very intimate. I think back on certain movies, and I not only remember watching them, the positive or negative impression it made on me, but usually the person sitting beside me is just as paramount to the memory.
I have always wanted to do something in film but never trusted myself enough to dip a toe in. I’m sure I would have loved acting, or even something on the technical/ production side, but I guess I never truly considered it a possibility. It seemed too risky, and despite how much I wish I were, I’m not a risk-taker. I love to write though. In the last year, I have tried my best to teach myself screenwriting. I bought the FinalDraft software and a dear co-worker recommended a great manual. I’m such a rookie, and I’m sure the formatting isn’t 100% perfect, but I’m ready to learn.
I’m struggling through two scripts right now. They started out as one idea, but I think there were actually two story lines dueling for attention. I want to create something meaningful, but I’ll be honest — I haven’t touched either of them in probably two or more months. I feel like I should shout ‘onwards’ or something, but eh. It is what it is.
So I just watched this movie — it’s called Kate Plays Christine. It had a lot of things I appreciated and some things that made me scratch my noggin’ in a bad way. The documentary stars Kate Sheil, who I recognized from ‘House of Cards’ (she’s Rachel’s former lover). In this movie, she’s her actual self — cute, edgy bob with bangs, pixie legs and short jean shorts. It’s basically her real-life journey getting into the mind of Christine Chubbuck, a news reporter who shot herself on live air in 1974.
Kate is playing her but only for the purposes of this film. As in there is no separate film, it’s just the footage that plays throughout. She wants to give the character of Christine depth, an authentic representation. It seems to me that the only things she finds to connect on, though, are that she’s a 31-year old unmarried woman (to Christine’s 29) and her anxiety overwhelms her. She seems amazed by these similarities, which is baffling to me because there are so many of us in that camp. Howdy.
The video of Christine’s suicide has supposedly been lost or destroyed, so she’s forced into the periphery of Christine’s life. She interviews anyone that is still alive and remembers Christine. She also does things like get a spray tan and brown contacts (oh, and a really, really bad wig). Some of it gets to be a little bit much. Christine’s mom had apparently said that she thought Christine would have chosen to drown herself instead since she loves water, and there’s this scene where Kate literally demonstrates that possible eventuality. She flops into the water despondently, her bad black wig falling off every two seconds. Not gonna lie, it’s pretty odd.
Actress Kate keeps saying how much she needs to find out everything about Christine, when there’s only a few vague internet stories about her. And interviews with peers all say the same: Christine was a woman who struggled with depression, who had recently been romantically rejected by a co-worker, and who wasn’t satisfied with her treatment at work. But Kate keeps digging and digging, hoping to play detective and find something more sexy. And to me, that’s where it fell apart. Because she’s then forced to fill in what she doesn’t have with ‘cool’, offbeat visuals and her own struggle to bring Christine to life. And IMHO, it just ends up coming across as self-indulgent.
I really liked Kate when she talked about suicide. When she thinks about it, it scares her, she says. It terrifies her to think about something so awful, and I kinda feel the same way. There isn’t anything larger than death. There are times where I’ve thought about suicide but almost always it floats by and out. Like if I’m really down about something, and I’m located near something potentially life-threatening (a kitchen knife, for example), I might think, what if? I have never thought in terms of specifics. Kate taps into this, and I felt our wavelengths come together. She’s scared about the finality of being dead, and I am too. A beautiful moment happens when the woman hired to play Kate’s mother (Christine’s mother) talks about caring for her terminally-ill husband. She says she’d rather have a really shitty day than no day. Yup.
There’s this character I’ve written about before who is basically me (shocking, I know). I’ve said that sometimes I wish I had a different name, something more intriguing perhaps. Like maybe Shea or Melania. KIDDING. Something like Genevieve or Eleanor. A name that begs more attention than ‘Lauren’. Every 80s baby is named Lauren. But I’ve also always liked the name Jane. And how much plainer do they come than Jane? I went with Jane. Jane gets my vibe.
Kate’s trying to play this character (Christine). And I’m trying to infuse myself into this character (Jane). We’re both attempting, sometimes unsuccessfully, to hone our crafts. I appreciated the structure on that level. I really enjoy meta things, and all of the meta things were not lost on me. But I also felt like Kate didn’t really convince me that this was about anything other than her own self interest. She whines that there’s not enough material on Christine, but then sorry (newflash), there wasn’t enough material to make a movie about Kate playing Christine. It feels weak and forced, in that sense.
I’m bad at conclusions, but I did kind of like it. I didn’t love it like I thought I would during the first 30 minutes, and that made me a little sad. But I also don’t consider it time lost. If you’re looking for something a little more clear cut, my thumb would probably be at a 60 degree angle.
Movie recommendations, ahoy!