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17 December 2011 @ 12:59 am
Film Review: Shame  
In the midst of writing my paper on Freud and sexuality, I took a break to see this much reported film about one man's battle with sex addiction.

The basic story is about a man, Brandon (Michael Fassbender) who seemingly is living the dream life in New York. He's successful and beloved by his boss, lives in a nice apartment, and can supposedly get any woman he wants. From the outside perspective, Brandon's life is great. But as we soon start to see, he has an unusual preoccupation with sex. Interspersed with the scenes of him at work and going out for drinks with his co-workers, you see Brandon hiring hookers, surfing for porn on his computer, and periodically going into the men's room to masturbate. But as much as his addiction to sex takes up so much of his life, Brandon has managed to work it fairly seamlessly into his everyday life so that he has it more or less under control. All that careful control is upturned with the arrival of his sister, Cissy (Carey Mulligan) whose presence starts to unravel Brandon's ordered life.

There has been a lot written about Fassbender's performance in this movie and just how well he conveys the soullessness of having sex due to an addiction rather than genuine emotion or even just momentary pleasure. And it's true. Never have sex scenes looked more relentlessly empty and bleak. But I actually found the truly awful moments to be the ones with Carey Mulligan's Cissy. As much as people might find Brandon's personal life distasteful, Cissy had me constantly on edge. Her character is the flip side to Brandon wherein for her sex almost always equals inappropriately quick attachments. As much as Brandon is ordered and perfunctory with his behavior, Cissy has it all hanging out and her messiness is overwhelmingly stifling with her increasingly hysterical phone calls to one night stands and the way in which she invades her brother's space. It was almost a relief in someways when Brandon finally called her parasite. As cruel as it was, one can't deny the truth of it.

I can't say this movie was as incredible as certain critics have described it. It seems that the NC-17 rating and the subject matter itself carries a lot of this film, though I do think McQueen hit gold with his casting. I'll take a moment here to actually say that while Fassbender's verbal acting was fine, I found just his physical presence incredibly effective. When he starts out in the film he looks like your typical above average looking guy but the longer you have to stare at his face and the more and more you see him having sex with that desperate yet dead-eyed expression, it really hits you how ugly his whole existence is. The same applies to Carey Mulligan who uses her face to convey a vulnerability that's attractive at first but then rapidly spirals toward repulsive as her clingy-ness starts leaking out of every pore of her body.

All in all, if anyone is under the impression that sex addiction is sort of glamorous or fun, this movie will more than kill that fantasy. I'd almost recommend parents who are concerned about their kids having sex too early should show them this movie. It's put me off for the next five years or so.
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