Review: Shame

Starring: Michael Fassbender, Michael Fassbender’s Peen, Carey Mulligan, Carey Mulligan’s Foof
Director: Steve McQueen
Certificate: 18

I originally planned to see this film when I thought it was likely to get nominated for a bunch of awards. Then the Oscars shortlist came out and it was conspicuous by its absence, and I thought “fuck it, I still want to see Michael Fassbender’s penis”. So off I went to the cinema.

And a very nice penis it was – though I have to say, the first ten minutes or so of the film give you a rather inflated expectation of how often you’ll be seeing the Fassbendpeen during the film. If you’ve not seen it yet, my advice is to make the most of those opening scenes, because later in the film everyone gets a bit too caught up in the issues, and those of us who basically paid our £8.60 to get our perve on are left regrettably uncatered-for.

Sometimes I wonder if I need some sort of Audienceometer to capture how the other patrons reacted to a film, because I think that reaction can often be very telling. Certainly most of the people surrounding me at the showing I went to seemed to think that they’d bought tickets for a bawdy sex comedy, from the way they felt a need to titter and point during all the sex scenes – or worse, the way they felt the need to loudly discuss how very awkward they certainly DID NOT find any of this. I’m a bit of a loss as to how you can go to a film like this and not expect explicit copulation, but I guess even the best of marketing campaigns will always misfire with a few people. I just wish those people would not go to the same showing that I go to.

As far as my own opinion goes, to begin with I was shocked and repulsed and intrigued and all those feelings that I’m sure you’re supposed to have, and yet as the film went on, the main emotion that I felt was one of detachment. I really didn’t know what they expected me to do with the characters and situations that they were showing me – as the plot moved on and Fassbender’s character became more unhappy and more depraved, I just felt that this was dysfunction pornography (as opposed to the actual pornography I was secretly hoping for when I bought the ticket) – the film always felt, to me, a little bit too superficial in its presentation of his addiction. I just had visions of writers and producers slapping each other on the back and crowing about how clever they were to hold a mirror up to a disease of society – and forgetting to actually come up with a point to the film, other than “some people are like this and it is sad”. I’m not saying I needed a giant resolution to all his problems – perish the thought – but I just wanted the film to go somewhere, and it didn’t, really.

The performances were all good – Fassbender and Mulligan both played exceptionally damaged characters with raw believability, and the long scene in which Brandon goes out for dinner with a woman to whom he is attracted but with whom he cannot relate emotionally is wonderful in its languid awkwardness. There were, however, moments where I felt the film needed to take a step back – the scene of Carey Mulligan’s X Factor audition, for example. I really don’t think we needed to see the ENTIRE performance to get the message there.

I also rather liked Brandon’s creepy boss, who was married but still liked going out and trying to chat up women even though he was crap at it – he was quite an interesting character and I would’ve been interested in seeing a bit more of him. Especially since he and Brandon had a strange homoerotic tension in all of their scenes at Generic Corporate Environment and I was quite surprised when the end credits rolled without either one trying to put it in the other.

In conclusion, it’s an interesting but frustrating film that isn’t quite as revelatory as it likes to think it is, but still contains Michael Fassbender’s unveiled penis and therefore can never be dismissed as entirely without merit.

Coming attractions:
Young Adult: I wanted to see this even before Charlize Theron was the best Top Chef guest judge in the history of forever, but now even more so.
The Grey: 71 Degrees North: The Movie, regrettably now with 100% less Gavin Henson.
Man On A Ledge: Steven on the verge of going to get some ice-cream instead of watching this uninspiring dreck.
Martha Marcy May Marlene: I know Scream 4 made it fashionable to leave long gaps between sequels, but I really think the ship has sailed on a follow-up to Martha, Meet Frank, Daniel And Laurence.
The Woman In Black: Harry Potter And The Creeping Sense Of Dread

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