Kate Plays Christine is a confusing commentary on the public’s obsession with true crime drama. The film is structured as a kind of documentary, focusing on an actress named Kate Lyn Sheil as she is preparing to play the role of Christine Chubbuck. Chubbuck was a news anchor in Sarasota, Florida who infamously committed suicide during a live newscast. This film, written and directed by Robert Greene, investigates the story via the standard techniques of the documentary, and also contemplates and comments on the choice that Chubbuck made through the “character” of Kate.
The main difficulty with Kate Plays Christine lay in wrapping your mind around what is true, legitimate documentary, and what is fabricated for the camera. Kate Lyn Sheil routinely expresses frustration with the lack of knowledge about Christine, but it not clear if she really feels that, or if she is playing a part.
Interviews with real people are clearly staged, but they seem genuine enough, and are all credited as “himself” or “herself”. And yet, there are sequences where it feels fairly clear that Kate is playing a character – especially in the climactic scene of the film where Kate plays Christine’s suicide attempt.
The result comes off as an on-the-nose, hammy critique of the public’s obsession with tragedy and death – especially on the news. For a journey that treads through such a vivid and real hardship, the end rings hollow, ersatz, and disappointing.