*WARNING: THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS*
So, the BIG question:
How was Michael Fassbender's... performance?
It's nothing short of hypnotic!
Fassbender (Hunger, X-Men: First Class) the super talented actor with the most megawatt smile since Tom Cruise and Hollywood's newest star- is mesmeric and daring as Brandon, a handsome, magnetic, thirty-something sex addict.
His character is so effortlessly alluring, even though you want to dislike him- you can't- but you can't like him necessarily either- you feel sad for him ultimately.
Brandon looks like a put together, professional- but underneath the flawless exterior is a damaged man who watches porn at work, masturbates at work, eats dinner at home while watching porn, has so many dirty magazines, toys, etc. they can fill up more than three trash bags full, has no shame in pursing married women or having sex with strangers in alleyways, watches other people have sex, hires prostitutes, cruises clubs at night to get easy access to women and when necessary, turns to the opposite sex when a woman isn't available- as well as, does drugs.
Brandon's sex filled world spirals out of control when his young sister Sissy- a needy spitfire of a night club singer, played wonderfully wild by by Carey Mulligan (Drive, Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps)- moves in with him unannounced. Watching the two siblings interact on first sight, their relationship seems caring enough, but on second and third sight, you see that it is far from it and that their relationship has a murkier side to it, possibly even a... sexual one. *During one incident, Sissy creeps into Brandon's bed saying she's cold as she snuggles against him. Brandon clutching his covers to him in the fetal position, screams at her to get out of his room.* But unfortunately and frustratingly no back-story is told.
The most beautiful scene between them (and actually in the entire film) is when Brandon goes to see Sissy sing at a Manhattan nightclub and her performance of Frank Sinatra's "New York, New York" (which she delivers so stunningly!) touches him so strongly- it brings Brandon to tears. Well, just one- a single tear beautifully rolls down his face.
Brandon's other "problem" is he has started to see a co-worker Marianne (cute newcomer Nicole Beharie, American Violet) as a prospect for someone he perhaps could develop a relationship with. They go on a date that is extra awkward- especially for Brandon who behaves like he has never been on a real date before (which could just be the case). It's a great scene because for the first time through out the movie, he shows he's capable of vulnerability. *Their second "date" takes place at a hotel, right up his alley, but ironically with a woman he likes- he can't perform. The solution: she leaves and he hires a prostitute he does perform with. The almost sex scene with Beharie's Marianne, is so realistic, it makes you feel like you're on the bed with her and Brandon watching voyeuristically- as well as Brandon's sex scene with the prostitute up against the huge hotel's windows. *
Shame takes a dark turn when Brandon gets beat up by the boyfriend of a girl he hit on one night at a bar *(the most disturbingly disgusting scene as he tells a girl seconds later after she stands next to him to order something- that if she wants to- she can leave with her- so he can give her cunnilingus- and then with his finger, he penetrates the short skirt wearing girl!- and taking things even further- tells her approaching pissed off boyfriend, all the sexual things he wants to do to her and makes him take a whiff of his finger!) and even a darker turn- when he comes home and sees Sissy tried to commit suicide (in a very traumatic, bloody scene).*
The good looking seemingly in control Brandon is a sickly looking out of control mess by the end.
The very ending is maddening but pretty wonderful at the same time. *It coolly ends just like one of the very first beginning scenes- with Brandon on a train, lustfully eyeing the attractive married woman who helplessly eyes him back- whom he loses in the crowd when he follows her the first time (funnily enough, with all the movie's sex scenes, this is easily the sexiest scene of the entire movie). I'd like to think Brandon didn't go after the woman but if that saying is true, "Once an addict, always an addict," then he did. The audience is left to fill-in the-blank wondering, Did Brandon change? Or is he 'Brandon the Sex Addict' for life?*
The title perhaps should have been rethought as, there are very few moments of shame from the characters seen in the film. The shame seems to come from the moviegoers. It certainly made me blush, embarrassed and feel uncomfortable during many scenes.
Even though Director/writer Steve McQueen (Hunger) does such an excellent job in his directing, and although the story (written too by Abi Morgan) was solidly good- I was expecting a bit more. I expected Shame to be more shocking.
With the anything goes NC-17 rating, anything really should have gone.
Fassbender's sex prowler character (who is a bit reminiscent of Christian Bale's American Psycho's Patrick Bateman, prowler of the streets to kill, character) should have become so out of control he should have hit extreme rock bottom from: getting fired from his job, to turning to prostitution himself or assault even. His character could have also benefited from having a significant other or children so he could have stood to lose something monumental when his addiction got of control. *Mulligan's character also should have died- her death probably would have been a wake up call for him (as when she left a voice message begging him to talk to her, he was busy having sex with two women) to get help to change his lifestyle.*
And the sex scenes should have been as explicit as you can get away with in a film. I've seen "worst" in some R Rated movies. More so, there should have been more a lot more sex scenes. There are around seven. A movie about sex addiction should have been drenched in sex.
Although Shame's story is intriguing, it's a bit incomplete and didn't go as dark as it could have went. Fassbender and Mulligan's terrific and candid performances, fantastic directing by McQueen- plus a fine, compelling score (by Harry Escott), make the film as filling as it is.
With any other lead actor, actress and director, Shame really would have been a shame.
~The bathroom scene at the start of the film when Fassbender is urinating, he actually is urinating.