Shame (2011)

Apparently being addicted to sex isn’t fun. Dammit!

Michael Fassbender stars as Brandon, a sex-addict who is constantly bedding women almost each and every single night. However, his sister (Carey Mulligan) soon comes in to live with him and gets in the way of his life-style even though he continues to get worse and worse. Family and sexy-time just don’t really mix.

Other than almost seeing ‘Blue Valentine’ last year when it still had the rating, this marks my first time ever seeing an NC-17 flick, even though it weird is that I didn’t get carded. For some reason they have just never been my thing because they are usually always porno flicks that try to do something, but end up not doing anything. However, this is a flick that I’m glad to say deserved its rating and doesn’t hide away any pee-pees, ta-ta’s, or…well…you know…lady parts.

Writer/director Steve McQueen (no, this one) goes for the guts, or should I say wieners, and keeps this dreary and freaky mood where everything is dark, disturbing, and just not right. There isn’t a real driving force behind this narrative but to see the ways this guy goes about his days, popping b’s left-and-right still made me feel like something crazy was going to happen next.

What I liked about McQueen’s direction is that he actually doesn’t try to spell-out anything, except for the sex of course but even that to an extent is somewhat thought-provoking. McQueen lets us see this guy for what he is and what he’s suffering with and when things go from bad to worse, it’s hard to take your eyes off of the screen mainly because you know that this story is just going to get crazier and crazier. I never felt any emotional attachment to this story but I thought the way that McQueen showed this form of addiction, in it’s sad and dark haze, was very gutsy and he didn’t back down from showing anything, which I thought needed to be done to get the full experience of this film.

Where McQueen really nails this film down is in his way of filming, because being an artist himself, he shows that you can make anything great to look at. I love tracking shots and how McQueen keeps them going on for scene-after-scene was really great because it made me feel as if I was there and it was pretty nice to actually see somebody create tension by using just one shot the whole 5-10  minutes. There are a lot of memorable moments here where McQueen doesn’t cut away once such as the dinner scene he had with his co-worker, or when he’s jogging through the streets of NYC, or when he’s just standing there spying on his next sexual prey. McQueen really added a lot to this film other than just a bunch of really dirty sexy-time scenes, he made this feel real.

However, where this method fails is when he takes a little too long with certain scenes that I think should have been cut right away. I think anybody reading this knows what scene I’m talking about. The scene where Mulligan absolutely butchers the song “New York, New York” played on for way too long and instead of just trying to show us something that these characters share, it made me wonder just how much longer could this damn scene go on for? I mean it wasn’t that long of a song in the first place, right?

Another problem with this film is that the film does start to lose it’s own sight by the end, even though it always stayed interesting. I felt like this film really struck a cord with me when it came to its story, but how everything played out in the end seemed a tad predictable and unfocused. There were certain moments where an idea would pop into my head and I would imagine if what I was thinking, would actually happen in the flick, and 9 times out of 10, it actually happened. What I’m trying to say is that the last 30 minutes were predictable and I could tell what was going to happen next, even though my eyes were still glued to the screen.

The reason why this film felt unfocused by the end too was because there were a lot of characters, situations, and questions that were around within the first hour of the flick, but somehow found their own ways of leaving as soon as things start to get a little crazy. There were questions about this brother and sister on whether or not they actually had incest, and to be truly honest I think they did. However, I can’t be too sure because this film may sort of gives hints to that whole idea, I still think that there were a lot of questions about that and many other certain elements that this film brought up as well. Hey, I liked how McQueen didn’t try to spell it all out for us, but I still think he should have at least left us with a bit more answers.

Once again, Michael Fassbender owns in a role that needs him to do so. Take it for granted, he’s pretty much doing a Christian Bale impersonation right from the start but that doesn’t mean that he doesn’t deliver like you would expect a sex-junkie to do so. Fassbender really does let it ALL hang out and with a performance like this, it’s easy to see why he can definitely be an Oscar winner because he’s able to show so many emotions without even barely moving his face. He’s a sly dude when it comes to him getting the ladies, but when he has to show off some real emotions, Fassbender nails it and gives us a glimpse at a guy that seems trapped by his own demons which makes him ultimately vulnerable. This is a very physical and emotional performance for Fassbender, and one that I think he does a superb job in even though he probably won’t get nominated for an Oscar because it’s “too racy”. Besides he should win an Oscar just for being able to piss on camera, which is something I have never seen on film before and since I can’t even pee with somebody standing right behind me, I got to give some props to a guy that can do it in front of a whole film-crew. Carey Mulligan is also pretty good as the foul-mouthed sister of his, but when it comes to being Fassbender’s sister in this flick, you kind of get over-shadowed big-time.

Consensus: Shame ends up leaving more questions unanswered than we would have liked but the vision of Steve McQueen and the unrelenting performance from Fassbender, makes this flick a dark and dreary story that gets crazier and disturbing as it goes on, but with a lot more emotion still left in-tact.



  1. Great review! I am eagerly waiting for this one in cinemas on the 13th of January in the UK! I was fascinated by Steve McQueen’s Hunger and, if that one is a sign, then Shame is going to be great! I think the subject is very interesting and I am glad someone had the guts to make a film about it! I really do hope Michael Fassbender gets nominated and wins, he really deserves it!

    • I hope he gets nominated as well because he is amazing here and the rest of the film is great too by how they go for the gut with just about every scene. Thanks Aziza!

  2. Good review Dan. I’m still not sure how I feel about this one, I have yet to even see McQueen’s directorial debut. Still, even if I really wanted to see it, NC-17 is not exactly easy for me to catch a viewing of 😀

  3. Thanks for the post on my review. It’s always encouraging to know that I actually have readers. I liked yours as well. Good catch on the tracking sequences. I loved those too – especially the one where he is running. I felt it showed a lot without really showing much in the way of action on the screen. It’s too bad movies like this don’t get wider play, especially in my town (Twin cities of MN). I’ll let my readers know about your blog and thanks again for the post.

  4. I promise I’m not flaming this post but … I actually don’t know what I was reading here, Dan. What I mean is it’s a pretty vague review to me. Your focus on Fassbender at the end was more specific – I guess specifics is what I was talking about. Let me read it again and I promise again not flaming but your writing was great but I kept waiting for … you to talk about whatever you were tlaking about at a given moment. Let me just go read it again lol. (Josiah)

  5. Great review. I feel like I’ve seen the movie already 😉 I’m also intrigued by this Hunger movie…maybe I’ll look it up! Cheers…

  6. Even though I’m 24, I thought it was a little surprising I didn’t get carded either – you’d think the theaters would be extra careful or strict in following policies to card people. Oh well, haha!

    Good review as usual Dan. You’re right about McQueen’s eye for tension – even though it is very slow paced, he knows how to make it feel like something crazy is about to happen or can happen at any moment, especially with Fassbender’s explosive performance. And yes it’s a bit predictable, but going into it we should pretty much know that the end isn’t going to be very happy. Also, I think the ambiguity adds to it, but it’s fair to say you (and many casual moviegoers) might want more answers (though I think there’s no doubt they were molested as kids).

    I definitely think Fassbender deserves an Oscar nod and even the win (I’ve seen all of the other major contenders except The Artist), but I’m not sure he’ll actually win. I do think he’ll get a nomination though, because even the Golden Globes gave him one…but then again they have best actor for musical or comedy, some of which might knock him out of contention in the Oscars…oh well, it’s still the best performance of the year IMO.

    • It’s one of the best performances of the year and I think that this flick is definitely one that hits away with what it is showing and just how bad it can make you feel. Thanks!

  7. I’m probably one of the cold souls who thought that it’s not too racy or the movie didn’t have excessive nudity. At the same time. wonder if the crew acted the same way when Bateman had shower scenes in American Psycho, people crowding around to see the scene ‘unfold.’ And Fassy is fearless and is the heart of this movie showing the slice of life of someone we might not want to be. Glad you liked this movie.

  8. The way you describe this movie sounds like it’s pretty PWP–if you know what that means. I mean, sure there might be some plot there, but it sounds very loose. I had been planning to see this, but looks like I didn’t miss much. This sounds like a rainy-day streamer for me personally.

  9. i agree that that new york, new york scene was grueling as it went on. but i thought this film was so focused, and so emotionally raw. i felt very connected with it. it was wonderful to see brandon’s controlled world unravel. fassbender handled that with such was remarkable. and i actually though mcqueen’s direction was stunning.

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