Review: Shame

Posted on December 12, 2011
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Walking down 23rd street in Manhattan after watching Steve McQueen’s Shame was a completely different experience than I’ve ever had walking the streets of New York City. It’s hard to explain, but when you watch the film, I think you’ll understand.

You see, The Big Apple plays an interesting role in Shame, as it serves as Brandon Sullivan’s destructive playground.

Shame has come under major scrutiny for its content, depiction and thus received the scathing NC-17 rating, at the same time hurting it’s box office results, and the amount of eye balls that will be able to see the film itself.

In a recent director’s roundtable, McQueen said he didn’t understand why the film got hit with such venom, referring to sex, nudity, and the emotions as the normal things we as a society today go through and experience.

Well I guess I can lay it out for you, the potential viewer, why it got it’s rating.

There is full frontal nudity of both male and female, many, many times, hardcore sex scenes, drug use and all this never stops.

I guess if you can’t handle that, don’t see the film.

But if you have any brain between your ears you’ll know that the act of sex in this film is secondary to the mental anguish that transpires on an minute-to-minute basis in Brandon’s life.

The basis of Shame centers around Brandon’s sex addiction It  fuels him, his every move is calculated with the idea of getting some action next. He’s a man that has to excuse himself to the mens room to relieve himself in the middle of the day. He calls escorts, prowls the subways, the night clubs and bars looking for his next score.

So much like the perceived druggie looking for their next hit, the addiction that consumes Brandon is very much real, and it does not allow him to live a “normal” life.

Soon enough we are introduced to Brandon’s quirky sister, different in personality yet you can tell they are cut from relatively the same cloth. As Sissy, played by Carey Mulligan,  bombards Brandon’s life unexpectedly, she becomes a burden upon him, a parasite as he calls her, that begins to alter Brandon’s “routine.”

Fassbender’s performance here is unlike anything he has done before, but that’s because this film demanded more of him than ever. The Irish movie star bared it all, and not just clothing wise. The emotion and toll that your see Brandon go through each moment he lives is powerful. You can see this demon inside him, eating away, yet he can’t help himself. It’s a urning, a calling, he must feed the beast within.

This is sure to land Michael Fassbender and Best Actor nomination at the upcoming Oscars, and he might be a strong candidate to win. The only obstacle he would have to overcome would be the critical reviews and the NC=17 rating.

Mulligan does a good job as the needy little sister, who has major issues of her own to work out. The one scene that many are talking about with her is her jazz club performance as she sings Frank Sinatra’s “New York, New York.” While it’s a touching scene, I don’t see the big deal in it. Mulligan is strong, has other very powerful scenes and is a solid supporting figure.

Major kudos need to go to director Steve McQueen and his vision for this film. He used the city in such a way, it really was a canvas for Brandon, the use of his eyes on woman, the approach, the artistic expression through the gruesome scenes, it was horrifically sexy if you will.

Addiction is a sensitive subject, throw the word sex before addiction and it becomes almost taboo.

You see the pain and suffering in this film thrown in your face, there is no side stepping the issues at hand. The audience essentially becomes apart of the failed intervention that is Shame.

Rating: 9/10