Release Date: Dec. 16, 2011
Running Time: 96 minutes
Men think about sex 13 times a day, according to a 2010 study by OnePoll. Not Brandon Sullivan. In Shame, the New York bachelor (Michael Fassbender) has sex on his mind all the time. If he’s not thinking about sex, he’s having sex with coworkers, one-night stands and prostitutes. This latest psychological study from Fassbender’s Hunger director Steve McQueen is one long string of bedroom encounters that offers a disturbing look inside the head of a sex addict about to hit rock bottom. Brandon’s downward spiral is sparked by the arrival of his troublesome sister Sissy (Carey Mulligan). Sissy isn’t just a disruptive influence; her lack of sexual inhibitions disgusts Brandon. He clearly sees some of himself in Sissy, and while he doesn’t like what he sees, he can’t restrain himself. There’s no pleasure to be found in sex in Shame. That’s evident in the clinical way McQueen stages Brandon’s sexual conquests. It’s McQueen’s way of making us feel the numbness that cripples Brandon. Of course, it would easy to dismiss Brandon as oversexed. What man wouldn’t want Brandon’s luck with women? But McQueen doesn’t need to go to great lengths to show how someone suffering from sexual compulsion can cause as much harm to themselves and their loved ones as an alcoholic or a drug addict. That Brandon somehow gets away with searching for porn on his work computer is a minor miracle. Fassbender presents Brandon as quiet and emotionally guarded, but he gives off a loner aura that some women cannot resist. Still, there’s not much to Brandon. He’s solely defined by his sexual behavior, which gives you nothing much to hang onto when it comes to empathizing with him and his situation. He’s about as fully fleshed out as any male character you would find in a 1970s adult movie. Shame is sadly sketchy about everything else when it comes to Brandon, especially in regards to his relationship to Sissy. It’s not enough for Shame to position Sissy as Brandon’s mirror. McQueen frustratingly leaves it up to us to figure out the history between the siblings and why Brandon alienated himself from her long before his addiction took control of his life. Shameends on an ambiguous note, which is both predictable and suitable under the circumstances. It opens debate on whether the shame an addict finally comes to experience is enough to prompt him to take inventory of his life and seek treatment. Sometimes it’s enough, sometimes it isn’t. Shame leaves us believing Brandon could fall further but also hopeful that he’s ready to find a solution to his addiction.
Aired: Dec. 15, 2011
Web site: http://www.foxsearchlight.com/shame/