Posted on 7/02/12 05:25 PM
Sex and nudity.
"Shame" promised a lot of it and judging by its NC-17 rating, the MPAA believes it delivered. On paper, the sex and nudity in "Shame" was necessary to the film as it dealt with the taboo subject of sexual addiction. In reality, the sex and nudity served as a mere marketing vehicle that attracted those who like to rubberneck past a car wreck. You watch with curiosity but thereâ(TM)s nothing much to say about it other than to say you witnessed it.
"Shame" falls into the category of "what could've been?" An interesting subject, compelling leads, an industry's rapt attention. But the film never finds a tellable story.
A good example of this is Michael Fassbender's presence in the film. There's no question that his performance is strong and that he deserved the accolades and Oscar buzz he received. But his performance becomes a bit of a show. He's masturbating! He's having graphic sex! He's masturbating at work! He's having graphic sex in front of a hotel window! Fassbender ably performs in every scene and gives us his all. But you never really know what's behind it all. What's his motivation? Is it a troubled childhood? Maybe. The filmmakers do leave you clues but never really let you feel the severity of truth of it.
Perhaps they thought that Carey Mulligan's presence fulfilled that purposes. Mulligan, more than Fassbender, does a lot with her role. You get to know Sissy, you recognize her, you understand her pain even though you only know a hint of her backstory. Mulligan is given Sissy's co-dependency as the nucleus of her character's existence and she squeezes every ounce of that characteristic in the best possible way.
Fassbender's Brandon is in constant hiding driven by shame and he does so by wearing a cold shell. It's a hard characteristic to pull off without coming across as robotic and Fassbender seems to walk that fine line well. Outside of that he's a Hollywood fabrication "the successful Executive", you know that ones who work in modern offices, with nice glass walls, with attractive co-workers mulling about. Doesn't matter what he actually does, what matters is that he masturbates at work and watches a lot of porn.
"Shame" is a shame. The filmmakers could have told a psychologically-rich story that really exposed the pain sexual addiction can cause. Instead Steve McQueen stages a film with lots of scenes but very little story to be memorably affecting.