Friday, December 2, 2011
Writer/Director Steve McQueen is a rising star that has an ability to strike the balance between writing a script that can resonate with the most base humanistic feelings, but also represent those feelings visually without being overly stylized. "Shame" fearlessly plumbs the soul-churning depths of sexual addiction with cinematography that is reminiscent of films like "Metropolis" and "Bladerunner". Indie films are often more art than is necessary, but Steve McQueen is able to simplify his vision, which makes for a more powerful and realistic film.
The hype surrounding the film unfortunately focuses on the NC-17 rating and not the difficult topic of sexual addiction that the film addresses. If the film dealt with drug/alcohol addiction or gruesome acts of violence it wouldn't receive an NC-17 rating. Yes, there's nudity. Yes, there are scenes of people fornicating. However, I don't feel that the film celebrates the sex in the film or is in any way gratuitous. How can "Straw Dogs" depict a brutally violent sexual attack and receive an R rating, but willing participation receives an NC-17 rating?
The film centers around Brandon (Michael Fassbender) who is struggling with the pains of sexual addiction, but hides himself with his everyday life to keep his shameful habit of masturbating, internet porn, and sex with prostitutes from being discovered. It's not a question of satisfaction or pleasure; like other addictions, it's about numbing oneself to the world in whatever way works. The addiction has even numbed his awareness of the needs that his sister, Sissy (Carey Mulligan), requires of him. She is deeply depressed and desperately grasping for his attention and the affection of others. One flaw in the story is that you never learn why Brandon and Sissy have the issues they have, but you do understand that the disease impacts others in powerful ways.
When I read the script I was apprehensive of casting Carey Mulligan as Sissy. However, she continues to impress with every film she is involved with including "Drive". With all the rigidness that the film hits on, the soft beauty of Carey Mulligan is refreshing. The performance from Michael Fassbender was better in this film than he was in "X-Men: First Class" and "Jane Eyre" combined, and I thought he did very well with both. He carries himself with confidence yet an ability to breakdown and show the raw emotions of his characters illness.
NC-17 films are not allowed wide advertisement and are often rejected by the major cinema chains like AMC and Regal, so you will have to look for this film at an art house theatre. However, this should be a must see film for anyone that can find it and is a 5 Quack film for me. I would like to see an acting nomination for Michael Fassbender, a supporting actress nomination for Carey Mulligan, and an original screenplay nomination for Steve McQueen and Abi Morgan.