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Shame (Blu-ray Review)

14 Apr, 2012 By: Billy Gil

Street 4/17/12
Box Office $3.91 million
$39.99 Blu-ray/DVD combo pack
Rated ‘NC-17’ for some explicit sexual content.
Stars Michael Fassbender, Carey Mulligan.

Shame tackles a subject not often covered in American film — sex addiction — with such seriousness, it might leave you celibate.

Brandon (an Oscars-be-damned great Michael Fassbender) is shown perhaps as many typical single twentysomething and thirtysomething males in a big city are, working hard and sleeping around, watching porn when no one’s looking. He makes eyes with a girl on the subway, flirts with a co-worker, sleeps with a woman he just met after “blocking” his boss at a bar. So far, not so shocking.

Things change when Sissy (Carey Mulligan) — his sister — shows up and needs a place to stay. Sissy’s pushy, irrepressible nature rankles Brandon — she sleeps with his boss on a whim and stays with him way past the time she said she’d be gone.

She also catches him masturbating in the bathroom and sees his porn continuously playing on his computer. Slowly, we realize the extent of Brandon’s condition. Sex isn’t pleasurable for him, and his addiction leads him to shut out Sissy, along with everyone else.

Spoiler alert: Golden Globe “golf club” jokes aside, Fassbender’s full-frontal nudity is limited to a couple of brief scenes in the beginning. And the sex in the film, though plentiful, is more pathetic than sexy. Anyone going to see Shame for the skin likely will be disappointed, as the film’s bummer mentality won’t exactly put you in the mood.

Fassbender is electrifying as Brandon, allowing whatever unease sitting deep inside that fuels his joyless sexual pursuits to come through in flashes. Mulligan (Oscar-nominated for An Education), free from playing the ingénue, reveals another layer to her acting as the sexy, volatile and vulnerable Sissy. Director and co-writer Steve McQueen (no relation to the actor) does well not to reveal too much about the siblings’ background — how they got to be the way they are — and instead leaves the viewer to ponder this while watching them self-destruct.

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