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“Shame” – Review (POSITIVE)

February 4, 2012

Steve McQueen & Michael Fassbender reunite after three years in this intense sexual addiction drama. McQueen made his feature debut directing Fassbender in the gritty Irish drama, “Hunger”. Much like “Hunger”, “Shame” shares similarities in the physical as well as emotional toll its lead character endures. With Michael Fassbender’s powerhouse performance, “Shame”, will most certainly be the most controversial cult film of the last decade.

Brandon Sullivan (Fassbender), a 30-something-year-old businessman of New York City has a problem; he’s a sex addict. His vice is cheap hookers, skanky porno, online video sex chats, magazines, and the very woman that surround him in the city. Much like a drug addict or an alcoholic, Brandon cannot control his urges. Things begin to spiral out of further control when Brandon’s black sheep sister, Sissy (Carey Mulligan), crashes his life unexpectedly. Brandon tries his best to hide his problem from his remaining family member, while trying to make certain changes in his life to be a better man, but no matter how hard he tries, Brandon is surrounded by sinful temptations.

I’m a fan of the 2008 drama “Hunger”, so my excitement for this movie was set pretty high and again, “Shame” is one of the movies of 2011 where I had I high prospects and they were exceeded. The story is just so raw and powerful, you could easily set this story to an alcoholic or a cocaine addict if you really wanted to, and get similar results, but the story of a sex addict I don’t think is seen enough. How it is handle is quite gripping to say the least, and when you have a lead like Michael Fassbender playing such a character, it makes the movie all the more gratifying.

As I stated before, “Hunger” & “Shame” are in some ways very similar the emotional/physical toll it pressures onto its character. “Hunger” was about a man suffering in an Irish prison, challenging the law, and having the masses join him in a mass hunger strike. The pain is too great for any man in that kind of scenario, yet in “Shame” the acts that Brandon goes through is sexual pleasures. And while that doesn’t seem as extreme as a hunger strike, it’s the way Brandon treats himself is where the extremes come into play. Sure, he masturbates at home, has meaningless sex, but then you see what kind of man he really is. Brandon will have sex out in Central park, he’ll masturbate at the office, he watches porn on his work computer, and he cannot stop.

Brandon’s problem is emotional, there’s a terrific sequence in the film where Brandon decides to try a ‘normal’ date out, where it doesn’t lead into anything sexual and for the most part it seems find, but you can subtly see body gestures in him, knowing all he wants to do is touch this woman, and all this is mainly happening in one LONG master shot that SLOWLY zooms in on the date. For some that might seem boring (people want cutaways), but for the viewer you’re trapped in that uncomfortable situation that Brandon has brought himself too.

Now lets talk about Michael Fassbender; I saw this movie with my friend Julie, we both are basically on the same page about Fassbender; he’s a fantastic actor, but the dude is fucking scary! Seriously, I couldn’t believe it, but I literally jumped twice during this film when his character, Brandon, bursts into full-blown rage. There were a few scenes in the film where I thought he was ready to blow again, and we were waiting for the explosion of fury, but it never came (I’m aware that out of context this sounds wrong). Fassbender’s performance was raw, he was a ticking time bomb you just had no idea when he was gonna go off, and that’s one of the many reasons why I think he’s one of the best actors working today.

McQueen’s style is harsh, dry, mean spirited, and sometimes lighthearted when it needs to be. He has a good time playing with the emotions of the character as much as he likes to toy with the audience. Besides Fassbender’s terrific performance, its McQueen’s direction is the reason why I loved this movie. It really shames me (forgive the pun) that the Academy decided to not award a single nomination for this movie, not even for Fassbender. I’ve got a lot of mixed feelings with this year Oscars, but after seeing this movie, and knowing it won’t get any Oscar recognition it deserves, well, that was the icing on the cake. Had I seen this before I made my Lucky 13 list for 2011, this would’ve probably made it in the top 5 at least.

“Shame” is rated NC-17 for it’s intense sexual content, so the release of this film is extremely limited, but if it’s playing in your area, it’s a must see. And yes, I will say this, like my favorite comedy, “It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia”, stated this season in a very funny episode about the gang trying to go see this new movie, ‘The dude DOES hang dong’, you’ve been warned.

GRADE: A

Special thanks to Julie Klein for her input on the film, while attending the screening

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