kevinrnash's Profile - Rotten Tomatoes

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Rating History

Shame (2011)
6 years ago via Rotten Tomatoes

The second part of director Steve McQueen's directorial one-two punch debut is, incredibly, even more disturbing than his first, though it appears tamer and more collected on the surface. It is also more cynical, ultimately pointing out one of this generation's most serious issues- something that only partially has to do with sex. Michael Fassbender, one of the great actors working today, plays Brandon, a sex addict. Brandon brings a new girl home every night. If he can't pick one up, he hires one. He has stashes of pornography hidden behind his furniture at home. He is signed up with live chat girls online. His work computer is flooded with viruses and a filthy history. McQueen gives us a sort of rhythmic pattern in the beginning of the film, letting us peek in on the man's disgusting and obsessive life; he lets actions speak louder than words, and those actions apparently spoke so loud that the MPAA has called back with an NC-17 rating. But after the film unwinds itself a little, we begin to realize that it isn't Fasbender's sexual obsession that is so shocking but his lack of guilt and reflection. When he's not getting off, he's sizing up the women around him. One has to believe that if McQueen had gone the route of a Federico Fellini or a Terry Gilliam the film would be filled with carnivalesque fantasies from Brandon's point-of-view, turning every mundane second into mental porn. But luckily McQueen resists letting us inside of Brandon's head and we see different things. Mostly we see the cold indifference on his face, the sadistic pleasure in his eyes as he rattles off a number of dirty requests to someone's girlfriend in a bar. The point becomes not so much that Brandon can't stop having sex but that Brandon has forgotten how to feel. He does it out of boredom, out of hate. This is the story of a generation that has gotten so carried away with sight and sound senses and materialism that it has forgotten how to really feel. In a sad scene in the middle of the film, a woman tests Brandon in a pub by closing her eyes mere seconds after she meets him and quizzing him on the color of her eyes. Without skipping a beat, Brandon answers "brown" correctly. She sleeps with him that night. But it is clear that Brandon has become a surface-level observer; of course he knows the color of her eyes, he has already programmed in his mind every detail of her physicality. His gears turn hungrily, his body turns on like an automatic machine. When Brandon's sister Sissy (played by Carey Mulligan) drops in for an unwelcome stay, there are at first brief, optimistic bursts of hope that she might be his saving grace, but we soon discover that she only hardens him up. Whatever memories they share aren't good ones. This is a brilliantly told, sterile-styled masterpiece. McQueen has proven with only two films that he is a force to be reckoned with, and that he and Fassbender are a duo as promising and daring as Scorsese and De Niro were in the 70s. I have rarely seen a movie that made me feel as disturbed and physically sick as this one. I have rarely seen a movie that has stuck with me so vividly and urgently after the credits ended.