Saturday, November 12, 2016

Rapid Reviews: Bleed for This and Christine

It isn't difficult to pinpoint the turning point in Miles Teller's young career. Fresh off a strong showing in the indie success, The Spectacular Now, Teller gained immense notoriety as the lead actor in the critically acclaimed Best Picture Nominee, Whiplash. And the artist isn't afraid to talk about one of his biggest influences in Hollywood, the great Robert De Niro. Therefore, when word broke of Teller's upcoming role in the true story of boxer Vinny Paz, it felt as if the youngster was longing for his Raging Bull moment. But let me be abundantly clear, Ben Younger's Bleed for This is no Raging Bull.

Despite struggling to cut weight throughout his career, Vinny Paz (Teller) eventually becomes the Middleweight Champion in 1991. But just as the fighter reaches the pinnacle of his success, Vinny's forced to relinquish his belt after suffering a broken neck in a near-fatal car accident. Against the doctor's wishes, Vinny continues secretly working out with his trainer, Kevin Rooney (Aaron Eckhart), in hopes of making a triumphant return to the ring and reclaiming his title.

Boxing films have always served as the perfect platform for the beloved underdog story, and Ben Younger's Bleed for This attempts to accomplish the same. Yet, while the life story of Vinny Paz is truly an inspiring one, a flawed screenplay and structure results in a disappointing translation to the big screen. It's no fault of co-stars Miles Teller and Aaron Eckhart, who both deliver fully committed and strong performances. However, the film's pivotal accident occurs too late in the story and resolves itself too quickly for the full effect to sink-in with the audience. Consequently, the aura surrounding Vinny Paz's comeback to the rink becomes watered-down and less uplifting than intended. Therefore, Bleed for This merely stands as a mediocre examination of a genuinely remarkable event in boxing history.

Stars: 2 stars out of 4

Grade: C+

Rebecca Hall has always been one of those under-the-radar actresses who continually impresses despite never landing a true Oscar-worthy role. Yet, that all changed when she struck gold with Antonio Campos' true story Sundance selection, Christine. Recounting the slow downward spiral into madness of a 1970s news reporter who did the unthinkable, Rebecca Hall finds her career-defining role and delivers sheer brilliance.

Christine Chubbuck (Hall) works as a news reporter in Sarasota, Florida who's "always looking for a positive human interest story". Yet, as the industry begins evolving for ratings purposes by sensationalizing darker-themed stories, Chubbuck's desire for a promotion forces her to get caught up in this movement. Coupling this with her lack of a romantic and personal life, Christine's lifelong battle with depression prompts her to step in front of the cameras and make television history.

Antonio Campos' captivating character study represents a platform for Rebecca Hall's exceptional acting talents. She perfectly captures the essence of a bitterly torn individual who, under multiple factors within her life, begins to succumb to depression. Christine is an intelligently-paced ticking time bomb that explodes with an unforgettable finale. A precisely-detailed script accentuates Hall's Oscar-deserving work. It's a wonderfully nuanced performance that undeniably stands as one of the year's finest. Whether or not you're familiar with Christine Chubbuck's true story, this film will have you yearning for more throughout all of its lulls and explosive outbursts.

Stars: 3 stars out of 4

Grade: B

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