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Art House Asshole : Kate Plays Christine

| December 30, 2016

You know how when you’re wanting to go to the movie theater and you look up all the films that are showing and there are alway at least three that you’ve never heard of, let alone have any interest in seeing? Well, good news! I’ve seen those movies. I spend most of my theater experiences in art house theaters watching those movies that you’ve never heard of and then never watch. Yeah, I’m that hipster asshole. My goal with this is to spread information out about these films, that way you can decide one of the following. “That actually sounds pretty cool! I want to see that now!” or “Man, I’m glad I decided to go see the new superhero movie!”. So without further ado, here is my article and review of Kate Plays Christine.

I wanted to review one last documentary before the new year. So I picked this film due to its reviews and talk since it came out. And now that I finished watching the film, I’m debating if I should quickly watch another film because I’m not sure whether or not this is actually a documentary. Which is a problem for me. But let’s get into that because this is a bizarre film that I haven’t seen anything else like before.

Kate Plays Christine follows Kate Lyn Sheil an actress who has had somewhat in-and-out success in the indie/mumblecore wave of filmmakers. Kate begins preparing for her new role, playing Christine Chubbuck, a 1970s news anchor who killed herself live on television. The film follows Kate as she investigates Christine and learns as much about her as she does about herself. I’m vomiting as I write that sentence.

Many have called this film a thriller documentary as you see Kate slowly lose her mind while trying to figure out who Christine Chubbuck was. If get a glimpse into what certain actors go through to prepare for a role, and interestingly enough you see what it is like for someone like Kate Lyn Sheil who hasn’t had wide success by any means, who you could argue is desperate for success or at least desperate for a good performance. This sounds fascinating. This is something that you can read about and see stories of how certain actors prepare and whatnot. And those stories can take you down a dark road. The only problem with this film is that it REEKS of the fact that it is staged.

This film being staged is something that I’ve seen a lot of critics say is just part of the film and some people say is what makes the film interesting. And I am kind of disgusted by that. It is unclear what is real and what is fake in the film. One major thing that bothered me throughout the film is that you see Kate prepare for this role for this “soap opera feeling” movie or whatever it is, but it becomes increasingly clear that this project either doesn’t exist or exists solely for this “documentary” to see Kate’s process, I have found no sources on what this project is if it is real or if it is ever going to be released. The process that Kate is putting herself through doesn’t matter if there isn’t a project. The documentary talks to the other actors in the fake movie but if the fake movie doesn’t exist they why the hell are we talking to them?

This film came out at the same time as another film about Christine Chubbuck, Christine directed by Antonio Campos of Simon Killer and Afterschool fame. I will say that I have yet to see this film but have an interest in it due to Campos’s involvement alone. And what drew me to watching this film before that one is the fact that this is a documentary. But once it became clear to me that this wasn’t a documentary, I just felt scammed out of it. Why not make a documentary on Rebecca Hall who played Christine Chubbuck in Christine? Hall has gotten a lot of praise for her performance in that role, and I’m sure it would have been interesting to see her process. But the issue in that is that might not have fit the disgusting narrative that Robert Greene, the director of Kate Plays Christine might have wanted.

I rarely use this word seriously because I feel it is often unwarranted. But this is the most pretentious film I think I have seen all year. The narrative that Greene gives in this film not only mocks and insults Christine Chubbuck, a woman who the film has been telling her life story to the entire time in a way that made me sympathize with her. But the film also insults the audience by saying “Why do you want to see this actress portray this character?” Probably because you faked an entire god damn film to give a narrative about someone you didn’t understand or like. You can focus on the morbid curiosity of death in societies eyes. That’s fine. But don’t act like you are so god damn above it. All of the themes and morals to this film could have been put in a narrative scripted film and I would have liked that film better. But the fact that this film has the audacity to call itself a documentary when what appears to be at least seventy percent of it is staged is sickening.

I haven’t seen the rest of Robert Greene’s filmography, so I don’t know if he is immune from the “Why are you so amused by despair and death” but after this two-hour session of him masturbating on camera I will probably actively avoid watching the rest of his filmography. This film is insulting on multiple levels. Not only is it one of the worst films I’ve seen all year, this is probably one of the worst “documentaries” I’ve probably ever seen. I’ll probably do a review of Christine as well to see how that stacks up to this film. But my god, what a complete disaster.

About the Author:

Henry Jarvis is the youngest member of the Reel Nerds. His favorite films include Space Jam and Dude, Where’s My Car? and Lawrence of Arabia. He enjoys those pretentious art house films that Ryan hates. He sees a lot of movies! Honestly more than he should. He replaces his lack of social skills and meaningful friendships with his love of cinema! He’s also crying while he writes this biography for himself. His favorite directors are Andrei Tarkovsky, David Fincher, and David Lean.
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