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Shame (2011)

May 25, 2012

MY CALL:  The character development is unsubtle, but impressive, and the characters may first be considered hyperboles, but with time they are nothing short of being a little too real for comfort.  For those who like the gritty, satisfying-for-not-being-satisfying films, this is for you.  No story, little development, but I was heavily affected.  [AIF YOU LIKE THEN, THEN WATCH:  You’ll find all of the emotional intensity but more redemption in Crash (2004).  I’d also suggest American Psycho (2000).

If our favorite self-loathing, vain American Psycho and his self-abusive little sister had all of the sexual hang-ups of Rodger Dodger (2002) then we’d have Michael Fassbender (X-Men: First Class, Haywire) and Carey Mulligan (Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps, Drive) from Shame.

Brandon (Fassbender) is a NYC exec with an ostentatiously modern, white, sterile condo and a serious sex addiction.  He ever so casually saunters high society lounges and effortless finds company for the evening.  But that doesn’t seem to be enough to quench his deep-seeded thirst for—something.  On a daily basis his only smiles are elicited by flirtations or discussions thereof with his partner in crime, his boss.

Brandon apathetically ignores his sister’s routine calls until one day he comes home to find that she, Sissy (Mulligan), has dropped in unannounced.  This turns into an uncomfortable, family-valueless argument during which Sissy is naked.  She makes no effort to cover up nor does Brandon try to avert his eyes.  They bicker like participants in an unhealthy marriage, which sets the stage for their even more unhealthy relationship as brother and sister.  At this point we can imagine that they’ve been through something serious together and that they, at some point, strongly depended on one another.  We can also imagine that moral lines may have been crossed.

Working a few gigs as a lounge singer, Sissy draws the attention of Brandon’s business cohort.  Their affections clearly displease Brandon.  In fact, it incites frustration, resentment, enmity and rage.  Masturbation, full frontal nudity, intense sexual tension and a brilliantly tactful score make this film all about a tone of depravity—much as were the differently but equally intense 127 Hours and Drive.  You never quite feel comfortable watching this film, yet you need to know where it’s going and why Brandon and Sissy are the way that they are.  Keeping in tune with American Psycho, Brandon has an addiction to pornography and an often cold demeanor that accompany him even in the workplace.

Let’s see now…donkey + midget + gang + blonde…hmmmm.  “GO.”

On another note, I can’t help but to wonder if the man cast as Brandon’s waiter (during a date scene) wasn’t cast because he looked like a very American Psycho Christian Bale.  The waiter has a surprising amount of dialogue, all somewhat humorous, and all interrupting a scene designed to demonstrate that Brandon is romantically challenged and generally disconnected.

As Brandon becomes ever more removed from emotionally connecting with anyone else, his sister included, the sexuality becomes rather intense, more frequent and, for some, perhaps difficult to watch.  This film probably won’t make you laugh or cry, nor will it lead you to anything resembling catharsis.  It will, however, impress you with the cast’s ability to take on this intense—I dare not call it a story—series of scenes.  The character development is unsubtle, but impressive, and the characters may first be considered hyperboles, but they are nothing short of being a little too real for comfort.  In Sissy’s words, “We’re not bad people.  We just come from a bad place.”

SIDEBAR:  Between this emotionally chilly performance and his stone-cold killer act in Haywire I can’t wait to see how he fares as Weyland Industries’ Bishop-ish android in the upcoming Alien prequel Prometheus.

Michael Fassbender as David, the emoting android.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. May 25, 2012 3:35 pm

    You know, even though I acknowledge seeing a superficial similarity myself (, as I read more and more fellow bloggers link Shame with American Psycho I am somehow beginning to resent the comparison. Shame is a vastly superior movie in my opinion.

    Nonetheless they both, in different ways, explore similar ’empty man’ territory as done in earlier movie eras by the likes of Taxi Driver and The Graduate. We need more movies like these! It’s, er, a shame, that there are so few good ones.

    ps. ‘family-valueless’, I like that…

  2. May 26, 2012 1:41 am

    Thanks for the comment! I agree that is a Shame that there are so few movies that attach themselves to different viewpoints. However, I still think that American Psycho is a better film. I loved the satire and Bale is a wonderful actor. We will make sure to add.

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