Shame is an emotionally wrenching portrait of modern-day sex addiction and features a powerhouse performance by Michael Fassbender.
Here is a more accurate lede: Shame reminded me of masturbation — self-indulgent and meaningless. Its star, Michael Fassbender, shows his penis and, consequently, critics are hailing his performance as “fearless” and “brave.”
At least a good session of self love lasts no more than 15 minutes, whereas this pretentious drama from director Steve McQueen drags on for an hour and 40 minutes.
Shame is one of those tiresome “damaged people” films, with mournful piano music and actors who wear haunted expressions. When they wear anything at all.
There are lingering shots during which the audience is expected to reflect on what it’s just witnessed. Sex addict Brandon (Fassbender) jogs and jogs while his sister Sissy (Carey Mulligan) has sex with his boss in Brandon’s apartment. Sissy, a struggling nightclub performer, sings a complete rendition of “New York, New York,” presumably to give us time to ponder the fact that Sissy isn’t likely to “make it” — anywhere.
Mostly, I grew bored during these interminable scenes and instead pondered what might have been in the actors’ film contracts. Did they void “non-nudity” clauses so that they could perform full-frontal scenes in this movie? Had any of them seen a really good film about addiction, such as Days of Wine and Roses? Why does Brandon masturbate so much, when he apparently has no trouble picking up chicks in bars?
Nothing in Shame makes us care about these characters. Brandon’s a handsome, well-paid office drone who lives in a nice Manhattan crib. Sissy is a moderately talented, attractive singer. Apparently Brandon and Sissy are Irish kids who somehow wound up in New Jersey. That’s as much as we learn about them.
Shame delivers sermons about the usual crap — sex for sex’s sake is sad and destructive; addicts have trouble connecting emotionally with others. Along with the graphic sex scenes, this is material that might have been daring in the 1960s, but today is just a pointless jerk-off. Grade: D+
Director: Steve McQueen Cast: Michael Fassbender, Carey Mulligan, James Badge Dale, Nicole Beharie, Lucy Walters, Mari-Ange Ramirez, Loren Omer, Hannah Ware, Elizabeth Masucci, Rachel Farrar Release: 2011
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