Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades
If it’s a woman Rush Limbaugh calls her a slut, but a man with the same proclivities is said to suffer from sexual addiction.
“Shame” – the new Steve McQueen drama at the Tropic – explores this so-called affliction. Is it a thoughtful study or voyeurism?
Maybe both. I remember my college psychology professor saying movie censors were often men who like to watch dirty movies. Did that influence my becoming a film critic, so I could watch movies like “Shame” without shame?
In it, a thirtysomething New York exec named Brandon cannot get enough sex. He lusts after a married woman on a subway train. He picks up strange women at clubs. He beds a coworker. He gets beat up by the boyfriend of a woman he tries to pick up. He receives fellatio at a gay bar. He goes for a three-way in a cheap hotel.
A regular satyr.
Yeah, yeah, we can make those envious jokes, like smart remarks about those ads that warn to see a doctor if an erection last more than four hours.
But it’s really a sad story.
Brandon’s boss is nearly as far-gone, but Brandon manages to have sex with a woman David was trying to bag. Turnabout, David beds Brandon’s baby sister.
Sissy is a pain in Brandon’s, uh, backside. Cramping his style. Nearly as screwed up as him. Damaged from their unhappy childhood. Suicidal.
In the end Brandon is sexually burned out, practically ignoring the married woman on the subway train. Or is he?
Director Steve McQueen (no, he’s not related to the long-dead actor of the same name) made a great feature film debut in 2008 with “Hunger” (no, not “The Hunger Games”) about the 1981 Irish hunger strike. It starred Michael Fassbender as the IRA volunteer who led the strike.
For this film, McQueen again taps Fassbender (“A Dangerous Method”) to play our horndog. And Carrie Mulligan (“An Education”) plays the little sister.
McQueen is maturing as a director (yes, this movie should be rated “For Mature Audiences”), having started off as an avant-garde artist whose early film work was influenced by Andy Warhol.
McQueen says “Shame” is not just about sexual addictions. “It’s about addictions, in general, and being in a world where we don’t necessarily have self-will.”
Fassbender agrees. “We’re all fragile, in our own way, and we’re all trying to find our way. What I got from it was that great humanity that makes each of these people think they need somebody to help them. I thought that was quite moving.”
Why did Michael Fassbender choose to do such an explicit film? “It’s very simple for me. I keep things very simple. There’s this idea of, ‘Oh, my god, and then you’re naked. What’s that going to do for your career?’ My job is to facilitate characters. I’m a storyteller, and that’s one facet of telling that story. End of story.”
As for Steve McQueen, he claims he did the movie because “I wanted to see Michael naked.”
Hmm, maybe my old college professor was right.