Shame

Been a bit busy recently, so haven’t updated in a while. I saw the Steve McQueen (not that one) film Shame a few weeks ago and will now let you all know what I thought about it. Since it’s predominantly about sex, I’ll try to ease up on the childish jokes, but I can’t promise anything.

Shame (2012)

I’m going to blow my reviewing wad early by starting off with the admission that I didn’t like Shame. It’s a grim, angsty bit of filmmaking that feels its really meaningful, but actually comes across as a student film with a much higher budget complete with predictable depressing ending. I realise that calling a film everyone’s having a massive intellectual wank over “pretentious” may make me look bad by comparison, but sod it. I’d much rather watch something dumb but fun like The A-Team than this rusty bucket of spunk.

“We’re not bad people. We just come from a bad place.”

Shame is the story of Brandon (Michael Fassbender) a 30-something man living in New York. Brandon suffers from sexual addiction and is finding it harder and harder (fnarr, fnarr) to keep it from bleeding into his professional and social life. Things change for Brandon when his wayward sister Sissy (Carey Mulligan) comes to stay, forcing Brandon to come to terms with how he’s living his life. I like the overall idea of Shame. Off the top of my head, I can’t remember many films dealing with sex addiction and this certainly seems like the most realistic portrayal of it. Both Fassbender and Mulligan give really strong performances, although I think Mulligan has been better elsewhere (cough Drive cough). Fassbender’s Brandon reminded me of Oldman’s George Smiley in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, where you know despite the cool exterior, there’s some serious emotional juice bubbling just beneath the surface. The film is well shot and there are some really interesting flourishes here and there, including one shot where Brandon is frantically binning all his nudie mags and DVDs and we get fast, flickering shots of naked flesh, ending on an arsehole (not a dig at Fass, that’s actually what happens). It’s like a pornographic version of the Marvel Studios logo and is my new forum avatar on several Christian websites.

I get what Shame is doing. I just don’t find it that compelling or interesting. The opening 10 minutes, with Fass strutting naked around his modern, threadbare apartment and eye-fucking the shit out of a girl on the subway reminded me of Patrick Bateman in American Psycho. In fact, the opening 20 minutes could easily be the start of a serial killer film, right down to Brandon’s cold, removed way of ghosting through life and seeming alone, even when in a room full of people. The film perks up a bit when Sissy comes to town and inadvertently holds up a mirror to Brandon’s life. Is he as damaged and needy as she is? I didn’t care. I didn’t feel sorry for either of them. I really liked a bit near the end where Brandon seemingly gives up trying to fight his addiction and becomes an unapologetic poonhound, but I found this to be funny, rather than tragic.

There’s one scene that outlined Shame for me. It takes place in a swanky bar where Brandon and his boss are watching Sissy perform. She sings an excruciatingly slow version of New York, New York and everyone agrees it was brilliant. Mulligan has a nice voice, but I can’t stand those long, drawn-out jazz renditions of popular songs. I know some people solely want to fill their ears with that stuff and consider it a purer, stripped-down form of music, but I need something with a little bit of oomph to it- and it’s the same with film. I don’t mind character studies or ruminations on the human condition, but don’t give me this sort of toss and tell me it’s “deep”.

“You come in here and you’re a weight on me. Do you understand me? You’re a burden.”

Shame is a study of addiction with delusions of being more significant than it is. It’s a long, grim slice of artistic nonsense that forgets to make you care for the characters. If this is your sort of film, fine. You take it away with you and stroke your chin red raw. I’ll be over here, in this corner, having fun.

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