I’m not sure whether to be angry that Craig Shilowich made me laugh so much in a film where we all know the gruesome endgame, or impressed that he made me laugh so much in a film where we all know the gruesome endgame. I think it’s actually a mixture of the two, but each one for different reasons. Shilowich is actually the screenwriter for Christine, not the director. Antonio Campos directed the movie. I know that I talk about the director a lot more as the auteur, if you’ll allow me such a pretentious term, of the film, but sometimes it’s definitely more so the writer. Think Aaron Sorkin or Shonda Rimes, you always know when you’re watching one of their projects and they’re always the writers, not the directors.
I’m angry at Craig Shilowich for pulling off so much comedy in the script because of one very specific reason: I’m jealous. This is his first produced script and it is so nuanced in the character depictions that I didn’t understand why I hadn’t heard of him before seeing this movie. I’m impressed because, well, it’s a pretty damn impressive film. When I think about films as works of labor, I always consider the script as something that has to bring about 80% of the vision to the project. The other 20% is filled in by the director, cinematographer, actors, composer, etc. So I always think the screenwriter has the really heavy duty job to pull off. Argue if you want, it’s just my opinion.
Since I mentioned Antonio Campos earlier, I do want to say that I don’t think he did a bad job. I think he did his job, which was get the shots, guide the project to completion, and other directorly things. I haven’t seen the other films he’s directed, only a couple that his company has produced (James White, and Martha Marcy May Marlene just for reference, both of which I also highly recommend) so I can’t really make a judgment on whether this one seems match his style or even if he does have an overarching style to his oeuvre, if you can allow me another pretentious term. Do yourself a favor, when you’re angry, say oeuvre about 5 times. You can’t stay angry. I don’t even know what the word means, I just know how to use it in context. Yes, that’s kind of knowing what a word means, but I don’t really know the definition. And that, readers, is the definition of pretentious. See how that came full circle and wasn’t just a rambling digression? No? Yeah me neither.
Also, since I talked about Campos, I think it’s a good time to talk about who else in the film filled in the 20% not provided by the script to make this a great film and not just a good one: the actors. Namely, Rebecca freakin’ Hall.
From the moment she shows up on screen and starts sweet talking with that infernal Ohioan accent (by which I mean she did the accent very well, and it’s infernal because people from Ohio really talk like that) you know she’s going to be amazing. An actor has to be so engaging to make you feel so much tension even when you know what the end result of a scene is going to be, so I was obviously impressed with her in the actual scene where her on-air suicide happens, because we know it’s about to happen, yet my knuckles were white. This might be a good opportunity to mention that the suicide attempt does occur on camera, it’s not especially gruesome but if you’re sensitive to blood or think it will be too much for you, close your eyes for about 10 seconds and you’re good. They don’t revel in it and show it multiple times or anything.
The others were good too. Michael C. Hall, J. Smith-Cameron, Tracy Letts (who seems to be in everything lately), and Maria Dizzia all play their parts very well, but this was the Rebecca Hall show, hands down.
What I didn’t like too much about the film mostly has to do with pacing. I felt that the film as a whole could have been tightened up to be more around the 100 minute or even 90 minute mark. There weren’t any extraneous plotlines or anything like that, just a couple of times where I felt my brain wandering and I don’t want that to happen at all during any movie. I’m looking at you, The Revenant. Aside from that, I don’t really have complaints to speak of.
To sum up, I think Christine is a superbly written film that was executed quite well, Rebecca Hall is seriously on her A game, and people from Ohio, your accents are atrocious.