Shame – Review

5 Jul

Movies about drug addiction are a dime a dozen. Sex addiction is a totally different thing. Some psychologists even argue that sex addiction doesn’t even exist. Whether it does or not, I’m not here to debate. What I will do is tell you if Shame, the movie that Richard Roeper called full of sex “but never sexy”, is worth your time.

Brandon (Michael Fassbender) is a thirty-something businessman who seems to have his life strictly in order, expertly balancing his work, friends, and a well hidden sex addiction. This balance is shaken when his sister, Sissy (Carey Mulligan), comes to stay in his apartment indefinitely. Brandon, now faced with this intrusion, must learn to control his addiction and attempt to form a more intimate relationship.

This is a very powerful movie without ever becoming loud. There is a score to this movie, but it is never boisterous, but strictly appropriate to what is happening. That can be said about everything in this film, including Michael Fassbender’s (in my opinion) Academy Award worthy performance. Fassbender was truly meant to play this role, and keeps a very controlled attitude throughout the movie. Behind all of this control we can see a glimmer of desperation and panic that shines through making this a very layered and complicated performance.

I feel like Shame is one of those movies that people would say, “It was boring. Nothing even happened.” At times, I can see where they’re coming from, but would argue that the conflict is coming from beneath the surface. There are scenes where Brandon and Sissy argue or where Brandon must fight his sexual urges with clear temptation. Then there are scenes where Brandon must quietly deal with something, and it seems like nothing is really happening. For example, there is a long take of Brandon going for a run after hearing sounds of sex. The camera stays with him for a very long time, which may make some viewers bored. But, as with everything in this movie, it happens for a reason.  This reason could be debated.

Shame also succeeds at never feeling too fictionalized. There are scenes that show Brandon’s mental collapse or a breakdown, but it’s never over dramatic. As I said before, that is the main component to this movie’s success: it’s control. The audience follows along in Brandon’s damaged psyche. We feel like we have a clear understanding of things in the beginning as it is layer out for us to see, but as Brandon becomes more and more stressed, the time line shifts and more intense editing ensues. That is brilliant film making.

Sex addiction is an interesting topic that is genuinely examined here. Screenwriters have to study and learn about their themes before writing the screenplay, so I’d bet my entire movie collection that this is accurate. Me, personally, would believe that sex addiction is real and it looks terrible. Brandon can’t even get through a work day without masturbating in the bathroom stall. Something like this can’t be made up and portrayed so seriously without feeling like fiction, if that makes sense.

Shame is an interesting, powerful, and moving character study about how one man’s addiction can affect his work, his friends, and the stability of his life. It is rated NC-17, so this is a graphic movie when it comes to the sex, but that shouldn’t draw you away because this sex is never erotic. I loved Shame and I can’t wait to watch it again.

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