INSPIRED – It’s a tough film to watch. It earned an NC-17 rating for good reason. It tackles a subject matter many find somewhat redundant – sexual addiction – and it is the most honest film about the depravity of man’s darkest self-indulgence and masochistic behavior since Last Tango In Paris.
Shame stars Michael Fassbender as ‘Brandon,’ a nebulous Manhattan salesman who goes through the motions in life, leaping randomly from one sexual conquest to the next in hopes of satisfying his animal urges while answering to no one.
This isn’t so much a story as an examination. Writer-director Steve McQueen has a point to make, and he doesn’t meander. Nor does he soft pedal the imagery. If you have children of any age in the house, watch this film with the remote control close at hand.
There’s a touching phone message left him by his suicidal sister (Carey Mulligan) near the end of the picture that rings true of a few people I’ve known in my lifetime. The ones who can only own their mistakes on voicemail. “Brandon, I need you…we’re not bad people, we just come from a bad place.”
Those friends we all have who just can’t seem to get out of their own way. The ones who no matter how much counsel shared, or capital spent, are destined to self-destruct.
He has one stab at true sexual intimacy with a co-worker, but the inherent lack of objectification renders him impotent. So sad – but so truthful and well realized in the arc of the story. The purity was just too much for him to handle.
What Michael Fassbender has given us in Shame is not only to be commended and admired, but to be passed on – and certainly not dismissed as gratuitous. It is a brave and vulnerable performance, reminding me at times of Nicolas Cage‘s Oscar-winning work in Leaving Las Vegas. Similar themes as well. The tragic consequences of those who choose their addiction over intimate relationships.
Shame offers no answers. Just a mirror.