Michael Fassbender stars in Shame, directed by Steve McQueen.
Studio: Fox Searchlight
Directed by Steve McQueen; Starring: Michael Fassbender and Carey Mulligan
Dec 02, 2011
In English director Steve McQueen's second feature film, co-written by McQueen and Abi Morgan, Michael Fassbender plays Brandon, a well-to-do New Yorker whose looks, stylish wardrobe, and piercing stare can, we're led to believe, bring pretty women to near ecstasy on the subway. The catch is that Brandon is a sex addict who collects porn and can't maintain relationships with women. His younger sister, Sissy (Carey Mulligan), an aspiring singer, disrupts his clandestine lifestyle when she crashes his posh apartment for a surprise stay. There's an uneasy sexual tension between the two and a vague allusion to a dark upbringing. "We're not bad people; we just come from a bad place," Sissy tells Brandon. Her attempts to establish a familial relationship with him arouse contempt and further fuel his increasingly daring sexual escapades at work and about town.
McQueen, with his eye for striking compositions and proclivity for long takes—there's an astounding tracking shot of Fassbender jogging through the streets of New York at night—treats the premise with utmost drama, even though a character with intimacy issues and an insatiable appetite for sex and porn could just as well come from Judd Apatow. McQueen wastes almost no time presenting Fassbender (an alum from McQueen's first film, Hunger) and Mulligan in full frontal nudity (in separate scenes), so it's concerning early on to what extreme he'll take them in the name of art. Ultimately, for all the skin shown in Fassbender's sex sequences, the most provocative moments turn out to be Brandon and Sissy's conversations, and a frail, time-stopping rendition of "New York, New York," sung by Mulligan. Fassbender (who's played a few characters wrestling with sexual impulses this year) and Mulligan especially instill Shame with emotional gravity. (www.foxsearchlight.com/shame)
Author rating: 6/10
Average reader rating: 7/10