By: Henry J. Fromage (Two Beers) –
There’s more dick in Shame than a 1940’s dime novel. More sausage than a Munich wienerwerks. More cock than a Mexican gambler’s back yard. What I’m trying to say here is, it’ s a George Clooney-intimidating amount of genitalia.
Fassbender, giggling while Clooney struggles to find words to describe his manhood
I think we can all agree that that was entirely necessary… now on to the review. Shame reteams actor extraordinaire Michael Fassbender with his Hunger director Steve McQueen in an examination of a man grappling with a debilitating sex addiction. When his just as, but differently, fucked up sister (Carey Mulligan) sweeps back into his life and takes up residence in his apartment, he tries to face up to their dark past and his uncertain present.
You don’t have to get very far into this movie before you see that you’re watching two singular talents in their prime. McQueen got his start in the modern art world, both with experimental shorts and static pieces. The meticulous attention to detail and spatial awareness it takes to succeed in that environment is evident in every frame of his films, and the camerawork in Shame is as beautiful as always. He’s mastered much more than this, though, and is beginning to get a reputation for fostering great performances. One way he does this is by employing extremely long takes, teasing out extra and more authentic emotion from his actors as they’re forced to inhabit their characters longer than usual. This must be very demanding on them, but you can’t argue with the results.
One such scene, in which the camera rarely strays from Mulligan as she sings an almost five minute rendition of “New York, New York”, is heartbreaking as she displays vulnerability, hurt, and bravery throughout and tells us more about her character than ten pages of dialogue could.
Although it’s not as good as this person’s brave portrayal of mental illness
Fassbender is even more impressive. His character is not just obsessed with, but derives his entire sense of meaning from sex. He’s as depraved, helpless, and tragically, relentlessly driven as any addict I’ve ever seen on film, regardless of substance of abuse. His eyes communicate this even more than his actions, and the way they alternate between a predatory suaveness and a dead void is chilling. However, that Fassbender is able to make us then empathize with a character so foreign to most of our mindsets is what makes this the best performance of 2011.
There was no Bully-style, Harvey Weinstein controversy over the NC-17 rating for this one. It heartily earns it, and your appreciation of this film is going to hinge quite a bit on how much male full-frontal you can tolerate. That’s more of a conditional beer, though, and I felt that, as much as there was of it, the nudity was thematically sensible and necessary.
This film still felt a bit short of perfection for me, though, so I’ll also assign this beer to the one thing that still lags a bit behind the rest of McQueen’s toolset- his storytelling. The force of Shame comes from its characterization, but the story itself is fairly simplistic, and especially when Fassbender sinks to his knees and yells at the heavens, a bit familiar. I can’t wait until these two get a story on par with the rest of their enormous talents to sink their teeth into.
The second team-up of two of the most exciting talents in the business, Michael Fassbender and Steve McQueen, showcases their ever-sharpening abilities. This is an engrossing psychological tale with two heartbreaking performances, although McQueen doesn’t deliver a bona-fide masterpiece… yet.
Bonus Drinking Game
Take a Drink: every time somebody gets laid
Take a Drink: every time Fassbender does something sketchy
Take a Drink: whenever he takes the dachshund out for a stroll (fyi- there’s no dog in this movie)
Do a Shot: for every increasingly uncomfortable interaction with his sister
Take a Drink: every time you think up a new penis-related pun for his name. Example: Michael Fassboner (Props: Frank Cerros)
Now, Take another Drink: while imagining William Shatner screaming the penis pun you just made up.