Thursday, 23 March 2017

Christine


‘Christine’, directed by Antonio Campos (‘Afterschool’ and ‘Martha Marcy May Marlene’) is a film where we know the ending from the very beginning as it’s based on a true story, yet this doesn’t take away from the story at all. If anything, it makes it all the more poignant.


Christine Chubbuck (Rebecca Hall) is a reporter for Channel 40 who is quickly approaching her 30th birthday. It doesn’t take long to realise that she’s depressed – she’s frustrated with how her job is going, her love life isn’t going anywhere, she still lives with her mother, and she’s been suffering from a mysterious stomach ache that just won’t back down. She won’t talk about it though and instead lets it all build up inside her, getting more and more overwhelming.

It’s a beautiful look at depression – so often films that revolve around mental health focus on the wrong things, or the parts they think the viewers want to see. Sometimes it’s all about the turn-around, and we miss crucial elements of when things are still not looking up. Thankfully though, ‘Christine’ manages to avoid this mistake, yet the result of that is of course that you’re in for a bit of an emotional ride.

Rebecca Hall is absolutely fantastic as Christine – I hadn’t actually seen anything with her in before, but she’s known for her parts in ‘Starter for Ten’ and ‘The Prestige’. In ‘Christine’ every slight action or expression she makes counts. Her acting is completely thought out, and it's mesmerising to watch. The anger that she gets across is unmistakable, yet it still seems subtle. When Christine is suffering we know about it, and we can’t help but feel completely in tune with it. Her performance is likely to be easy to relate to by a lot of people, whether they’ve experienced depression or not. 

It’s not just Hall though – the whole cast bring something to the film, and perfectly complement her acting. The cinematography is powerful and sublime, focusing in on all the right parts. Some shots are as simple as a drawn-out take of Jean (Maria Dizzia), Christine’s colleague, putting away her groceries and taking some ice cream out of the freezer, yet they resonate with the viewer. And then, of course, the blunter scenes also have this effect, leaving you unable to take your eyes away from the screen.


I certainly found ‘Christine’ a hard watch, given the amount of emotion and distress that is exhibited, yet there were some beautiful moments of humour hidden amongst the pain that kept it from being too down on itself. Small moments between characters that added another dimension, and showed the positives that were around Christine during such a difficult time. It was still hard to all take in as of course it all happened, and the gravity of what actually happened is quite hard to envisage. I imagine that producing such a film was painful for both (director) and all of the actors involved, yet the end result was worth it. A distressing watch, but also a moving insight into the troubled world of a woman who really was the Sylvia Plath of the reporting world. 5/5

★★★★☆

Hannah Read


Christine at CeX




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Tuesday, 21 March 2017

Vice Principals- Season 1


On the 17th of November back in 2013, television said goodbye to one of its greatest heroes. The inspiring tale of Kenny Powers, Eastbound & Down, came to a fitting climax - and the world wept as we said farewell to the man who could throw a baseball “faster than f*ck”. Well, ladies and gentlemen, 2016 brought us the return of co-creators Danny McBride and Jody Hill and their new creation. Moving away from the world of sports and into the world of education, this is Vice Principals.


Shot as an 18-episode story and split into two halves, these first 9 episodes of the Vice Principals story are absolutely superb television. When the beloved principal of North Jackson High School retires (a cameo Bill Murray), he reveals that he trusts neither the cocksure Neil Gamby (Danny McBride) nor his scheming and seemingly sociopathic co-vice principal Lee Russell (Walton Goggins) for the job, and so instead outsources the job to college professor Dr. Belinda Brown (Kimberly Herbert Gregory). The show chronicles Neil and Lee as they conspire to bring down Dr. Brown, but only gradually self-destruct as their own biases and unlikable personalities increasingly alienate the rest of their co-workers.

First of all, if you enjoyed Eastbound & Down then you will absolutely love this. Maintaining the same inappropriate and foul-mouthed humour that is a staple of Danny McBride’s work, it’s a perfect companion piece to the former show. The dark style is similar and, like Eastbound, there is a surprising amount of heart in here. But for anybody who isn’t familiar with the style and has a more fragile sensibility, I’d be wary before jumping into this. It is often offensively inappropriate.

Danny McBride and the always brilliant Walton Goggins are absolutely perfect here, with Goggins stealing the show. Known primarily for his darker roles – he’ll always be Boyd Crowder – he plays completely against type here as the arse-kissing and flamboyant Lee, complete with blonde-tipped hair. McBride is effectively playing himself but when has anybody ever had a problem with that? The man pisses excellence. But special mention should certainly go to Kimberly Hebert Gregory, who turns our hero’s nemesis into a sympathetic character and arguably has us siding with her.

Vice Principals has come under some criticism with accusations of being too offensive, but anybody familiar with McBride’s usual sort of work won’t be surprised by the content here. There are moments that do push boundaries and the premise itself – two white men aggressively fighting a black woman for her job – isn’t exactly politically correct. But there’s nothing here you haven’t seen before, and certainly nothing that pushes boundaries to foreign waters. It’s no more offensive than your average episode of Family Guy, South Park or Rick & Morty. It’s dark and twisted in its humour, but then again, all the best things are…

Vice Principals is a hell of a lot of fun. The story is engrossing and always interesting, the characters are all great, and the jokes land. And, as I mentioned before, there is heart here. McBride’s character’s fight for the love and respect of his daughter is surprisingly moving, while the hardships of our hero’s nemesis Dr. Brown are often touching too. This is a confidently made show that ticks all the boxes that modern comedy should.


If you enjoyed Eastbound & Down or you like your comedy dark and twisted, you’re in for a treat. If your idea of comedy is Friends or The Big Bang Theory, then you should probably stick to those. This could be a little too inappropriate for you. Vice Principals begins with a bang during its first 9 episodes, and I for one cannot wait to see how it wraps up this year.

★★★★☆

Sam Love


Vice Principals at CeX




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