Friday, September 16, 2011

Movie Review: Shame

As a huge fan of Michael Fassbender, it goes without saying that I have longed to see 'Shame' because I was excited about the theme of the film, sexual addiction, and even more thrilled to see the cinematic result of Michael's reunion with the brilliant director Steve McQueen. I can declare with complete competence that I thoroughly enjoyed, on a creative level, Shame. Mark my words, it will be added to the Criterion Collection one day, it's that good! A part of me was a little anxious that there would be a noticeable flaw in the film to prevent it from being as good as I knew it was capable of being, but I was not let down. I feel I must stress, that regardless of how big a Fassbender fan you are, this film is NOT for all Fassbender fans! When it is released in theaters later this year, it will be rated NC-17, and thereby assuring that non of his very young fans can see it in the theater. And if it gets no-rating, they still may not be allowed, or some guardian will have to go with them. But I don't think most normal guardians will want to take kids to see this movie. The review has a few light spoilers.

Michael brings to life a young upper middle-class Manhattan man who has a shameful problem; he's addicted to sex. Like an alcoholic who needs X drinks in a day, Brandon needs some form of sex X times a day. As you know the effects of alcohol on the liver, imagine the effects of mindless daily dangerous sex on one's health, mind, self-confidence, and wallet. The film starts out with Brandon waking up in his bed, contemplating how to get through the day and how to fulfill his out of control sex drive for the day. He walks around the apartment naked, like most men do, but this is Michael Fassbender. It's unheard of for a high caliber rising star, handsome, articulate, talented, young male actor, like Michael, to reveal himself sans clothes to this extent. Steve McQueen realized that for the believability of this film, his actor had to be naked and nothing conveniently covering his actor up. There is nothing sensual about his nudity as that it wasn't there to titillate the audience like how women's bodies have been used for eons. Fassbender's nudity was instrumental and served his role very well. Some rare prudish reviews did not find his nudity necessary, but I shrug those people off as immature and insecure about the male body. Same goes for the viewer if the sight of male nudity harms them - they should steer clear of this film.


Because this is a Fassbender fan site, I know that most readers just want the gist of my impression of the film, and therefore I will sum it up as best I can. Something happened in Brandon's life in the past that made him become a sexual deviant. He does seem normal in his work life, and he is very handsome and well maintained, personable, suave, has a nice clean home - all that appears nice, but his constant need to masturbate, watch porn at home and at work, pay for prostitutes is abnormal. His routine is turned upside down one day when his sister Sissy, wonderfully played by Carey Mulligan, comes to town and conveniently does not have a place to stay. Their first encounter is quite odd and it gives the viewer a slight insight into exactly what kind of upbringing they had and how unusually close they may have been before. Sissy is possibly even more messed up than Brandon as she has marks on her wrist which are tell tale signs as to the state of her fragile mind. Brandon blatantly resents Sissy inviting herself into his life, but what can he do, she's his sister for better or worse.


Brandon's need for sexual gratification is non-stop and he even watches porn at work. And so one day, when the IT department needs to update his virus protection on his computer and takes it away, he is stunned and upset about it, and what does he do? Promptly go to the men's room and masturbate to relieve his stress. His boss is a regular womanizing married creep, and when paired up with Brandon while they are out for drinks, he fails miserably, whereas Brandon just gives a woman his 'look' and she's his; alleys are perfect for stranger quickies.

The 'look'

But there is one very pretty girl who works at his office, Marianne played by Nicole Beharie, who gives Brandon hope for normalcy. After confronted by his sister, perhaps he realizes that he must attempt to have a nice relationship, so he asks Marianne out for dinner in what turns out to be something he forces himself into and it shows - but he gets an A for effort. During this scene, we learn clearly that Brandon has difficulty trusting people and getting to know them on an emotional level. He's been hurt before, very badly, a long time ago and sees long term relationships and monogamy as a complete waste of time. He is teased by his sister when she comes across his porn, and laughed at when she catches him in an embarrassing private moment. He unleashes a scary fury upon her and tells her to leave. He then gets rid of everything that is porn tainted, including his laptop and dumps it in the trash. Now purged of his shame, he attempts to whoo Marianne once more with an impromptu mid-day date.

When they are making out, she dares to attempt to make love to him, but he cannot compute what she is doing, she cares for him, wants to be loving and gentle, but this is alien to him, and he can't perform - he likes his sex mindless, rough, and nasty, not this sweet-kissy-poo-cuddle stuff. Now we see just how messed up he is. From this point out, Brandon spirals out of control in his failure to be normal with Marianne and blowing up at his sister. He goes on a reckless sex adventure from hitting on a woman at a bar, getting beat up by her boyfriend, going to a gay bar and getting lucky, then having a threesome in which Brandon appears completely haunted, detached, in pain, but in desperate need to feed an insatiable sexual appetite that can never be satisfied. The camera is so close into the threesome scene to make us the viewer feel as if we are the fourth person in this orgy.

An alarming incident occurs which forces Brandon to view his life as he has never seen it before, and try to make some changes soon so that things don't get worse. It's very heartbreaking. Sex addiction is still not fully viewed as a mental illness or condition, but it is demonstrated in Shame that such an addiction can be soul destroying and leaves a person extremely lonely, sad, and in harms way from others or by their own hand. Michael Fassbender was absolutely marvelous as Brandon, and did a fine job in conveying all the complexities of the character. He rightfully won the Best Actor at Venice, and he should win a few more awards as well, leading up to at the least, an Oscar nomination for this role. 'Shame' is for mature audiences only, and true fans will respect Michael even more after watching this film.

Grade: A

24 comments:

Dionne said...

Great review Simone. I am very intrigued now and I can't wait to see the film for myself. Michael is well on his way to getting the credit he deserves, an Oscar nom. would be a cherry on the cake.

I'm so proud of Fassy! Thanks Simone.

For some reason your review made me very emotional. I shall go off and watch something from my Fassy collection for much needed relief.

Monica said...

Hi! Thanks for the review. I can't wait to watch this movie. I watched a video on youtube about Shame's Q&A at TIFF and heard your question!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C5jHMT2tLtM

Alexi said...

Well, the "look" works on me! Yep. *grin*


And Yay! I turned 17 a few months ago. *happy dance*

Jaclyn said...

Excellent review, Simone! I completely agree with everything you said. In fact, next time someone asks my opinion of Shame I'll just refer them to your review. You've expressed your opinion on such an overwhelming film much more eloquently than I could since it left me in a glass case of emotions. lol

MLM said...

Sorry, Simone, too many spoilers and plot details that I had to stop in the middle of paragraph 5! I will withhold from reading this until after the film.

mike said...

thanx simone for the honest review.i am satisfied with the review and like you i am hoping for michael to get oscar nod for his role as brandon.i hope steve mcqueen will campaigned enough for michael fassbender to get the nominations.i know performance is important for nomination (90%)but campaigning is also important.

Carmen said...

Omg! i can't wait to watch the movie, really! But i have a question there is a clip where a train goes micheal flirting with a girl but she is married and follows her but to get the clip is, that part is very important or that happens?

Simone said...

Hey Carmen, yes, that train flirt scene did occur early in the film, you will like it. There's a lot I did not mention for spoilers sake. But there are two fangirly things I would like to get off my chest:

a) He should be a Calvin Klein underwear model.

b) He's beautiful throughout the film.

Carmen said...

i know! I imagine if you just see the photos and short clip I almost died, now seeing the whole movie! hey good idea with the modeling! indeed would be perfect for. forgiveness if he wrote it but I'm from mexico and not much but thanks for answering. There and then I saw something else in person: O

tracy cleary said...

omg simone!!!!!!!! thats what i thought when i watched the movie at the venice.michael fassbender not only have huge talent also huge package..................but i have to add although enjoyed seeing michael fassbender walking in his birthday suit,i have to say,i only thought about the nude scenes and his huge package on my way back home.i didnt think about it when watching the movie.this is because michael fassbender made me believe im seeing brandon not michael fassbender and steve mcqueen who made the nude scenes not vulgar.as colin farrell once said irish guys are all well gifted when it comes to the male package,i trust you now colin farrell

Carmen said...

* seriously you saw him in person :O

Kelton said...

Brilliant. :D

I can't wait to see his acting in this. I don't want to sound shallow, as I adore his personality and charm more than anything, but I am still rather eager to see his Irish family jewels. :) From what it sounds like, they are mighty fine.

*wink*

Thank you for the review!

MythGuard said...

You offered just the right amount of mini-spoilers to make anyone Fassy fan or not to be excited for this film. :)

As with that train clip, is the score the same in the movie as well? The score tugged at the heartstrings and I was wondering if it was actually in the film since the score also made an appearance in the movie "Red Line Journey" by Hans Zimmer, and I wasn't sure if they just temporarily used it for that clip or if it's actually in the movie as well?

I hope it is. It was gorgeous.

@Carmen, Simone got to met him twice actually. And talk to him on the phone. ;)

MythGuard said...

oh, right. Hi. I have been reading your blog since well.. for about 6 months now. Thought I would make my first appearance. I'm not one to talk much. lol

Liz said...

I honestly can't wait for this movie to hit th e west coast, I am eager to see Michael in the role and how's the story in general plays out. Thanks for the review! Still super jealous of ya Simone. Hehe

Jordan said...

This put into a Fassy craze and the only way to fix that was to watch a Fassy video.

I settled with Sherlock Holmes and the Silk Stocking.

His acting is just superb in everything! I still cannot wait for Shame.

Jordan said...

typo fixer-upper comment:

This put me in a Fassy craze*

Left out sentence:

His facial features in that Silk Stocking movie were intoxicating. He knows how to stop the heart by just raising an eyebrow.

Anonymous said...

Does he use his Irish accent in this or an American accent? And how about Carey?

Simone said...

Hey Jordan, I love watching that Sherlock Holmes episode. Michael was a gorgeous dangerous bastard in that one. And yes, he knows how to work the eyebrow. ;-)

Anon, in Shame, Brandon explains that he was born in Ireland and his parents immigrated to the US. So, he has a soft Irish-American accent.

jake said...

simone i have not watched the movie but i have read the whole script five times.did they follow exactly everything in the script?i also want to know whether how the masturbation scene is shown.is it like in a typical movie where only facial expression and sound or from the back is shown or did steve mcqueen really show a man masturbating like with the male private part?im asking this because in the script there is more than 4 scenes like that and im planning to watch the movie with my girlfriend in london when it is released.she is also a huge michael fassbender fan,and i think we would feel a little disturbed if we see michael fassbender masturbating in a frontal view.plus does carey mulligan rendition of the new york song great or bad.thanx for answering simone.

Simone said...

Jake, I don't read movie scripts so I did not read the script for 'shame' as it gives away the plot and spoilers. But with that said, again, I stress that this film is for mature audiences, if anything related to sex makes you uncomfortable, then you shouldn't watch shame.

To answer your question, Shame is not porn... it is a brilliant film. Masturbation scenes just show his face.

Anonymous said...

can someone tell me where can i read the script for the movie shame?

Simon Burke said...

Okay wow, now things are getting ugly. Simone, I came here to ask the same question about the opening scene's nudity but not because I'm fearful of it but because...well, I'm a dirty bird and would like to know what I have to look forward to (apart from the well-acted and well-direct piece of cinema brilliance that is Shame). Is Fassy naked for the entire scene? What do we get to see?

Simone said...

Simon, your question I have no problem with. I've just been innudated with private inquiries and questions posted here from idiots who are nervous about seeing Michael naked, as per the rude comment I just deleted.

You will have an eyeful, no quick glimpses. You'll be impressed, trust me.