Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Movie with Abe: Shame

Directed by Steve McQueen
Released December 2, 2011

When a film earns an NC-17 rating, that’s often all that’s discussed, and other elements of the film may be ignored altogether. That should hardly be the case for “Shame,” an adult drama featuring complex, nuanced performances from two European actors playing native New Jerseyians living in the heart of New York City. Since “Shame” is the story of a sex addict, there’s bound to be excessive amounts of sex in the film, but that’s not all there is to it. McQueen and co-writer Abi Morgan have crafted a deep, disturbing exploration of the darker side of those whose secret lives consume their every breathing moments.

Michael Fassbender is an actor who has demonstrated extraordinary promise with parts in “Inglourious Basterds” and “Fish Tank,” and been given mediocre material in “A Dangerous Method” and “X-Men: First Class” this year. His role in “Shame” allows him to immerse himself fully into his character, barely uttering more than a few sentences for the entirety of the movie, instead revealing his desires through his actions and, most memorably, his facial expressions. It’s a masterful performance that makes him unlikeable but irresistibly fascinating. Carey Mulligan, the breakout star of “An Education” in 2009, plays completely against type as his loud, trashy, promiscuous sister, whose life is lived entirely exteriorly. Her performance is equally captivating, and these two make for hypnotizing siblings.

“Shame,” as lensed by cinematographer Sean Bobbitt and directed by Steve McQueen, is visually stimulating from start to finish, not for the sexual content it displays but for the attention to detail and scenery it establishes. An anger-fueled evening jog taken by Fassbender’s Brandon is filmed in such a way that it feels like the most important event of the entire movie, yet it’s merely a forgettable few minutes of Brandon’s life. That makes the truly momentous scenes, such as Brandon’s unspoken flirtation with a woman on the subway in an early scene, scored majestically by Harry Escott, all the more powerful and dazzling. Nothing is trivial in “Shame,” and even the most mundane of events is transformed into something heavy and impactful. It’s impossible to look away, both when Brandon’s life is as normal as it gets and when he spirals out of control. Though its conclusion isn’t fully satisfying, there’s no denying that the investigation into this deeply damaged character is utterly mesmerizing, with appropriately selected sexual content chosen to tell this story.


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