It’s a shame that I didn’t love this movie. Get it? Shame? Like the name of the movie? Aw, what do you know about comedy, with the puns, and the jokes, and the LAUGHTER!
I really wanted to love Shame. Like, Midnight Cowboy love it (I only make that reference because it's the only other “X” rated film I’ve ever seen). But something just seems to fall short with Shame. Sure, the sex is there, and the "I’m-dead-inside" look in the protagonist’s eyes is there. But it’s still missing something that I can’t quite put my finger on, and whatever it is, it could have put this movie over the top.
The film stars Michael Fassbender in what might be his boldest movie yet. That said, I still prefer him playing roles like Magneto or Lt. Archie Hicox in Inglourious Basterds. He’s just so charming, and to steal that charm away from him and turn him into a soulless sex addict is almost criminal. But at least he’s a handsome sex addict. I’m sure women won’t mind the brief shot of Fassbender’s junk that appears in the film. And while that might sound crude, I feel it’s justified, as the character of Brandon Sullivan is such an empty husk of a man that it’s hard to feel anything for him or see him as anything other than a piece of meat. We get a sense of the shame he feels for succumbing to his sexual desires, but the movie never really explains why we should have any sympathy for him. That might be the point of the whole movie, as there are some excruciatingly long shots of us just staring at Fassbender and making sense of who he is, but that doesn’t make for much of a movie. It makes for more of a screensaver.
Thank God for Carey Mulligan, who plays Brandon's vivacious and intriguing sister. They’re both self-destructive in their own ways, but Mulligan actually makes us feel for her flawed character, which I can’t exactly say for Fassbender. It’s like all the life was sucked out of his character and put into hers. Again, that might be the point of her being here -- the staggering differences between them is what pushes them apart…and ultimately, brings them together -- but it almost feels like this movie is trying to decide just what it wants to be: a study of a sex addict, or a family drama. It tries to be both and fails on both accounts. If it had only stuck to one, it might have been a better film.
Still, there are some memorable and haunting scenes in this movie that keep it from being a total drag. There’s a scene of Fassbender staring at his prey on a subway, which is disturbing and off-putting in all the right ways. And his loathsome feelings at hearing his sister having sex in the other room of his apartment is palpable and realistic. I could feel his anger. But besides a few distinct moments, this film isn’t all that great. If you come into it expecting a masterpiece, then you might be disappointed. But if you’re coming into it as a normal film, then you’ll probably like it, but you won’t love it. It’s worth a watch.
There really aren’t that many special features on this Blu-Ray version of Shame, and what’s here is pretty short. I’m shocked at how anemic they are.
“Focus on Michael Fassbender” is about three minutes of The Fass (You like that? The Fass?) talking about his role in the film as Brandon. It’s not interesting, and did I mention it’s only about three minutes? Get used to that time frame, because it’s about the same for all the special features on this disc. “Focus on Steve McQueen” is a three-minutes-and-some-change video of the director talking about working with The Fass again after their previous collaboration on the movie Hunger. You can tell the two of them are comfortable with each other, but again, it’s only about three minutes or so. Plus, it shows many of the same clips from the movie as the “Focus on Michael Fassbender” feature. It gets old, fast.
“The Story of Shame,” is basically a three-minute retelling of the film’s theme of isolation, and “A Shared Vision” is almost the same thing, but…well, really, I actually think it is the same thing. The same clips play, the same music swells, and there’s nothing distinguishable about it. It’s not even worth watching. “Fox Movie Channel presents: In Character with Michael Fassbender” is the last special feature and it’s pretty much a replica of the “Focus on Michael Fassbender” segment. So really, these special features are useless. See the film, but don’t watch the features. They suck.