‘Shame’ painfully dull despite NC-17

Shame, starring Michael Fassbender as Brandon Sullivan, is a very appropriately titled film. Mostly because I’m ashamed for having watched it; and I’m not ashamed because of the nudity in it. I’m an adult (kind of) and I can handle a little on screen penis. Mostly, I’m ashamed because I hated the movie. If it weren’t a press screening I probably would have walked out on the film. So if you’re still interested in seeing this film I’ll go into some details. 

MAUDE: Do you like sex, Mr. Lebowski?

DUDE: Excuse me?

MAUDE: Sex. The physical act of love. Coitus. Do you like it?

DUDE: I was talking about my rug.

MAUDE: You’re not interested in sex?

DUDE: You mean coitus?

MAUDE: I like it too. It’s a male myth about feminists that we hate sex. It can be a natural, zesty enterprise. But unfortunately there are some people–it is called satyriasis in men, nymphomania in women–who engage in it compulsively and without joy.

DUDE: Oh, no.

MAUDE: Yes Mr. Lebowski, these unfortunate souls cannot love in the true sense of the word.

So yes, I’m quoting The Big Lebowski here but this quote ran through my head multiple times during the watching of Shame and I think that it gives you a good definition of what Brandon Sullivan is going through during this movie.

Shame is about Brandon Sullivan, who has a sex problem. He seems to be able to court any women he wants into bed with him, he has sex with prostitutes and he is constantly watching pornography and masturbating. He even masturbates at work. While this seems like an interesting premise the film never tells you that this is a problem. Sullivan just seems like a guy with a strong libido. It’s an apparent problem because he can’t seem to focus at work (despite scoring a major sale), he can’t manage a relationship with his sister and he’s never been in a lasting relationship. His addiction with sex occupies his entire life.

Aside from the sex addiction Sullivan seems to have it good. He has a high-rise apartment walking distance from Madison Square Garden, he is succeeding at his job despite the lack of a computer, he gets along with his boss and he has a lot of sex. While he doesn’t get along with her, his sister is a very talented singer who sings regularly at upscale Manhattan bars. However, he can’t seem to control his urges and it leads him to have a destructive life.

Shame director, Steve McQueen, seems to have a 30 minute screen play on his hands that he wanted to turn into a full length feature. Instead of giving backstory on characters and building a plot he filled empty time with very slow scenes that added nothing to the story.  This is another film that had me wondering when the story would reveal itself, but found nothing. Near the end of the film McQueen adds some strong imagery and events that would normally be an epic climax to the film, but because he never made the audience care about the characters it just seemed like a tactic added to try to add substance to a meaningless film.

The strong imagery and events at the end of the film did add some entertainment and possibly a laugh or two, but they did not make the film worth seeing. Perhaps if they used some of their empty time to add substance and backstory to the main characters of the film it would have been thoroughly entertaining. But because of the amount of penis and sexual imagery during the film McQueen scored a rating of NC-17, which will likely get the film more viewers. If you must see this film, I recommend going to Red Box or Netflix instead of a theater.

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