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This Week's Movie ReviewShame
Four stars

POSTED BY MICHAEL A. SMITH, December 1, 2011    Share

Starring: Michael Fassbender, Carey Mulligan and James Badge Dale
Directed by: Steve McQueen
Rated: NC 17
Running time: 1 hour 41 mins
Fox Searchlight

I have officially dubbed 2011 as “the year of Michael Fassbender.” Along with his breakout performance earlier this year in “X-men: First Class,” he is also earning raves for his upcoming role as Carl Jung in David Cronnenberg’s “A Dangerous Method.” And he scores the proverbial hat trick with an Oscar-worthy performance in the new film, “Shame.”

In his early 30s, Brandon Sullivan (Fassbender) seems to have it all. A great job. An ever greater New York City apartment. And a collection of porn that would put most of the adult book stores in Times Square to shame. While Brandon constantly ignores the repeated phone calls on his answering machine he dabbles in pretty much every kind of sexual dalliance you can imagine. And most probably some you can’t. But an unexpected visit from his sister, Cissy (Mulligan), forces him to confront his sexual addiction.

Buoyed by a tour-de-force performance by Fassbender, “Shame” is an in-depth look at a man whose priorities and emotions are out of control. A seemingly “nice guy” outwardly, Brandon is filled with a sexual desire that really borders on rage. He is not afraid to proposition women in a bar, hook up with a stranger he’s just exchanged glances with on the subway or even indulge in the goings on in the back room of an out of the way gay club. When his sister arrives he feels himself smothered. The two obviously have a troubled history (“were not bad people,” Cissy tells Brandon’s boss, Dave. “We just come from a bad place.”) Brandon continues to indulge himself when he can, yet chastises Cissy for sleeping with the married Dave. “Don’t talk to me about sex,” is Cissy’s retort to Brandon’s scolding. It’s obvious that Brandon has a problem. When his computer at work needs repairs there are hundreds of pornographic files found on the hard drive. When Dave blames “an intern” all Brandon can do is nod. Sex is oxygen to him. He can’t live without it.

Director McQueen, who also co-wrote the script with British playwright Abi Morgan, keeps the film moving at almost breakneck speed. The nudity in the film is graphic with a capital “G!” But it doesn’t feel forced or just there for scandal’s sake. We need to see what Brandon sees and attempt to feel the power he feels when he is in command. Credit Fassbender for having the courage to literally strip his emotions bare. A quiet, simple piano score by composer Harry Escott is a perfect complement to the images on screen.

The film is rated NC 17, a rating that causes problems with promotion. No television commercials and very limited, if any, newspaper advertising means moviegoers are going to have to look hard to find it. But it’s a search I highly recommend.

This Week's Movie Review of "Shame" is ©2011 by Mike Smith. All contents of Nolan's Pop Culture Review are ©2011 by Nolan B. Canova.

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