- It’s rated NC-17
- There’s a big dick in it
- See #2, repeat for #3 – forever
Unfortunately, this fantastic film about addition and abuse has been belittled to these two aspects of the film. The actual narrative of the movie follows the life of Brandon (Michael Fassbender), a reasonably well off businessman who has a sexual addiction. He has a very routine life, following it to a tee every day and night, until his sister Sissy (Carey Mulligan) comes back into his life and complicates things.
I’ve been heralding this movie since the initial trailer came out. I had no background on the film other than Steve McQueen was directing and Michael Fassbender was going to be in it. I told everyone about it but they didn’t care. Only when news came out about it’s rating and sexual content did anyone ask me about the film. Yes, it is rated NC-17 and it is mostly because of some sex scenes and Carey Mulligan and Michael Fassbender going full frontal. I hated that it took nudity to get attention for this film, but this over sensationalizing of the film helped get people in the theaters to go see it. However, I don’t think that many of them actually watched the movie with the awareness they should have.
A few people went into the movie to see Fassbender nude and came out seeing Fassbender nude. They didn’t get anything more out of it. One clear instance of this is what my sister Kayla’s friend thought of the film. She saw the movie and only ever mentions Fassbender’s nudity, nothing more. When my sister informed her that a family member (me) had seen it, her friend assumed I was a woman. Y’know, because the only reason to see this movie is because there’s a dick in it. When Kayla revealed that it was her brother that saw the movie, her friend assumed I must gay, because no straight guy would see this movie. It’s irritating that a well crafted film is stripped down to only the instances of nudity, instead of the commentary about and around them.
McQueen’s style is lingering, which many people simply do not have the patience for. He pretty much subscribes to a new trend I’ve been seeing in a bunch of media, that emptiness is as fascinating as fullness. He stays on single shot for a long time, absorbing every possible nuance into the frame. Do we really need to see Brandon laying in bed for a full minute at the beginning of the film? Or listen to the entirety of a very slow rendition of “New York, New York”, while focusing only on the two leads’ faces? I would say that McQueen and his actors put in more content in scenes like this than some directors do in entire films. The bed scene not only introduces us to Brandon, but lets us see his contemplation on his own life, his stagnation as a person, his loneliness, his near ambivalence to life itself. If you think I’m reading too much into it, i can assure you that I’m not even scratching the surface.
Fassbender is a chameleon. I honestly do not recognize him from one film to the next. After watching Ingourious Basterds, it took me about half way through Fish Tank (another amazing film) to realize, “Hey, that’s Fassbender”. He is amazing in this film. Brandon is an Irish immigrant, so Fassbender (also Irish) puts on a slight American accent that occasionally breaks back into an Irish accent. It’s so subtle, it can go unnoticed. Mulligan also brings her best to the film. The long singing scene captures Sissy’s every facial mannerism, creating a character that is so flawed and troubled that you can’t help but second guess her intentions.
The scenes with both the leads are fantastic. The tension between them is so thick and somewhat unknown, making their relationship as brother and sister very uncomfortable. There is a harsh and sad truth behind their interactions, which is never explicitly stated (although I think there is enough evidence in the film to make a fairly serious claim). In a very uncomfortable scene, Mulligan goes from toying with Fassbender to being in complete and utter fear of him. The transition is so organic that it feels real, putting the audience right in the middle of room.
This was one of the best movies from last year, which is saying a lot considering how good a year it was for film. Shame is available now, please get your hands on it.