ARIZONA REPORTER




Harvey Critic - 03/12

REVIEW: SHAME


Apparently there's such a thing as sex addiction. But, wait: aren't all men sex addicts or at least talk like them? Have you ever run into a teen, especially male, who does not think or talk about sex at least ten times a day? There is a difference, as British director Steve McQueen most graphically illustrates, both clinically as a case study in psychiatric diagnosis and as a powerful drama that casts its victim as the kind of basket case we tend to associate with heroin addicts. But I'll bet you never thought that a sex addict who gets what he wants virtually every night, not depending simply on his porn collection or his adventures in auto-erotism but on his charismatic talent as a smart man whose handsome, marmoreal face appears to cast him as a ad exec in the 1960s rather than in the tumultuous present.


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SHAME
Fox Searchlight Films

Reviewed for Arizona Reporter by Harvey Karten

Grade: B
Directed By: Steve McQueen
Written by: Steve McQueen, Abi Morgan
Screened: Dolby88, NYC, 11/14/11
Opens: December 2, 2011

While the story becomes at best one that is short of riveting, "Shame," which provides its characters with an adept script by the director and Abi Morgan, appears to exist primarily to show the world that a star if born, and that star is Michael Fassbender in the role of Brandon. Brandon's solid relationship with his boss, David (James Badge Dale) allows him to report to work late when he wishes, so long as Brandon accompanies David to the hot spots to tomcat after the women who may well be looking for a night's stand but who could not in most cases be considered sex addicts. David, who has a minimally furnished, coldly but expensively furnished pad in Manhattan overlooking a bay, might appear to have everything going for him: a good job, great looks, lots of women, none able to negate the need for stacks of porn and computer videos. How does this hunk wind up the saddest man in Our Town, one driven to tears and perhaps even the point of suicide? It would not be revealing much to say that what he lacks is a solid relationship, nor does he feel the need for one lasting-as he tells a co-worker he dates-more than four months.

He has the opportunity to save his sister, Sissy (Carey Mulligan in an equally charismatic role) who calls him frequently without a response and one day takes over his apartment, a neurotically needy person who lives on what she picks up from her singing gigs. (Showing respect for his audience, Steve McQueen allows Sissy to belt out the slowest version on record of the song Frank Sinatra made famous,"New York New York" Nor does McQueen shrink from focusing the first eight minutes of his film on Brandon who says but a single word. When Brandon discovers his sister cavorting in his apartment with his boss, David, powerless to throw the cad out, he's on his way to a breakdown. Predictably enough, when one potentially serious woman, Marianne (Nicole Beharie) enters his life giving Brandon a chance to be saved, he is a depressing mass of erectile dysfunction.

Perhaps the first and only NC-17 film to appear on the prestige circuit this year with its full frontal and rear nudity and graphically simulated sex, "Shame" is imbued with a curious physicality that makes it a potential choice of the arthouse crowd rather than, oh, say, a modicum of pervs. Whatever one thinks of the film as plot, make-up, and especially Sean Bobbitt's deeply respectful view of the drama and excitement of Manhattan Island, the movie is all about performance, and that performance comes from Michael Fassbender, a man who will now take his place among the A-list actors of our time.

Rated NC-17. 99 minutes. © 2011 by Harvey Karten Member: NY Film Critics Online © 2011 Harvey Karten Member: NY Film Critics Online.

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