Reel Quick: Shame


Shame (2011)

Starring: Michael Fassbender, Carey Mulligan, James Badge Dale, Nicole Beharie

Directed by: Steve McQueen (not that one)

Synopsis: Michael Fassbender is Brandon, a NYC yuppie with a sexual addiction. Apparently this is a bad thing as he flirts and sleeps with whomever he wants including prostitutes, watches a ton of porn (even at work), masturbates constantly (even at work) and even tries gay sex in one scene. He tries to have a real relationship but he can’t seem to (physically or emotionally). His very needy and bohemian sister, Sissy (Carey Mulligan) comes to town for a few singing gigs and totally annoys and ruins Brandon’s mojo even more. When the very emotionally detached Brandon avoids real relationships other people who care for him fall to the wayside.

Best part(s): Depends on what you’re looking for in a movie so risque and erotic in tone. Its a sad caricature of a lonely sexually craved man who will get-off by any means necessary and has no real friends and shuns his family. No viewer of this parable is going to see Brandon as a hero for scoring so much or even how he gets the ladies. I hate to say this but the only good, entertaining parts are the sex scenes, because they are graphic and in one scene in particular he bangs a prostitute against a large floor-to-ceiling window in a hotel while people down in the street watch.

Master of Sexual Magnetism!

Worst part:  The movie fails in so many ways (for me) to be “out there” and ribald that when it seems like it will take Brandon down dangerous roads or even life-ruining moments they really never come when it comes to his sexual appetite (more on that in my Overall). But when it comes to worst parts and scenes, having a 5 minute close-up shot of Carey Mulligan singing a very sad and depressing rendition of New York, New York (yes, the whole song slowed down to wrist-cutting pain) will totally drive you bonkers in a movie thats supposed to show the evils of sex addiction. There’s another scene later on when Brandon takes a long jog for 3-4 minutes which, also is tedious, but at least he was charged by anger and frustration to run down a few NYC avenues to get away from his annoying sister. But her singing is really long and, dare I say, dull to such an iconic song that it really made me question A. why its in there and not truncated at least and B. Why am I watching this?

Best line: Unfortunately, Brandon is a very taciturn fella in this movie. When he does say something its really not quote worthy without being dirty and x-rated. But you’re not going to see a movie like this for the pull-quotes, right?But anyway, here’s a snippet of him fighting with his sister:

SISSY: Oh, whopee-fucking-shit. You have your own apartment, that’s amazing. Your job and an apartment, I should be in awe of you.

BRANDON: Well, at least I’m responsible for it. At least I don’t depend on people all the time. You know, you’re a dependency, you’re a parasite.

Nudity: Almost every other scene is a sex scene and there is a ton of graphic erotic imagery on screen. But be prepared to see Michael’s little fassbender as well as young lady parts.

Are you still rolling? I have 3 more verses to go!

Overall: This movie, while controversial and racy in nature, is actually very tame by at least my standards. I really thought Brandon was going to be ruined or have his sexual addiction destroy his life by the end. The film attempted to convey that but didn’t show that at all. There was really no lesson learned or rock-bottom hit. For instance, Brandon constantly watches and downloads porn on his work computer and while it was out being serviced for a virus his boss calls him in to tell him that there’s a ton of porn on his computer. But Brandon doesn’t get fired or even reprimanded because it was somehow blamed on an intern. Where’s the parabolic pay-off? He got away with it. Was he shamed? I guess for a little bit but this was in the middle of the movie and he went on a tear later on so I guess it didn’t shame him enough to question his habits. When his sister catches him jerking off and then finds out that he has an account to a porn web-cam site where a girl actually knows Brandon by name, Brandon then gathers up all his porn and his lap-top and throws them away. So sure, he was shamed again but like before he actually doesn’t lose anything or really changes his life for better or worse. If you’re going to make a sex addiction movie, go down that dark path, show how it can actually ruin one’s life. If you jerk-off at work, he should get caught and lose that nice cushy job. Bang a few prostitutes, he could get a disease or robbed or hurt by the girl or her pimp. Shame can bring you down at times and even humble you but with any addiction there’s got to be a real rock-bottom. By the end of the film, he still was the same successful yuppie living in NYC without really losing too much. He was still as lonely and horny with not too much grounding him at all. Without going into spoilery territory, he does have a really bad moment happen to him but it didn’t really involve his sexual addiction at all but his emotionally detachment towards others. While that emotionally detachment is a by-product of his sexual addiction (or vice versa), it doesn’t really give us, story-wise, the real impact for the sexual addiction and the primary purpose of this film. 

Closer inspection reveals he is reading!

Hollywood will never make a good, entertaining movie involving the nitty-gritty, dirty world of sex and sexual appetite. They just can’t. They always suck. Last Tango in Paris was supposed to be such a groundbreaking film when it came out. I saw it and was bored out of my mind. I got more sensual gratification from Showtime’s Red Shoe Diaries. Whenever I read about some erotically toned movie coming out I avoid them like the plague because I know they will fail. Lars Von Trier has one called Nymphomaniac starring Shia the Beef. And don’t get me started on those Fifty Shades of Grey garbage. I read one chapter of the book and threw it away it was so poorly written. So I’ll just stick with actual porn for my erotic fiction, thank you very much.

Now, I must be a little crazy or maybe even jaded by such eroticism because it was critical lauded and currently has a 79% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. The late Roger Ebert gave it 4-stars and said it’s “a powerful film” and “courageous and truthful” and “I don’t believe I would be able to see it twice.” Well I don’t care to see it twice because it was so boring to me. But it didn’t nearly impact me as much as it did Mr. Ebert. In fact it didn’t impact me at all.

I feel so dirty.

Score: 4 little fassbenders (out of 10)

25 thoughts on “Reel Quick: Shame

  1. That might be the most negative response I’ve encountered to this film. I haven’t seen it, so can’t say whether or not I agree.

    Out of curiosity, have you seen Thanks For Sharing?


    • James I saw that one and had pretty much Brad’s reaction to Shame, to that film. I was super letdown by Thanks for Sharing. Not sure about you. . .


      • I have not seen Thanks For Sharing but I’m sure they took a more light-hearted approach to the sexual addiction subject than Shame did. Shame had zero laughs and if memory serves, I may have chuckled at the Thanks For Sharing trailer.

        I got more of an lesson-learned impact from both Fatal Attraction and Unfaithful about where I stick my johnson.


      • I wasn’t moved by it either. Gave it a C (perfectly average).

        Mostly I was curious if Brad reacted as negatively to it as he did to Shame, since he said sex addiction movies are never good.


        • I said erotic and risqué movies are never good. I never meant to single out sex addiction. I was really hoping Shame was going to really shed the harsh light on sex addiction but the film mainly made Brandon look like a creep with nothing to lose. A seemingly mild-mannered husband with 2 kids in the suburbs would be a more appropriate subject in a sex addiction movie where it shows the ills and downfall of such a shameful addiction. Give the guy something to lose and regret doing.


          • Fair enough. Sorry for the misinterpretation.

            And I agree that few erotic movies wind up being quality narratives. We’ll see if I think Shame as flawed as you do when I finally see it. 🙂


  2. Damn this is a. . . e-hem, Shame. I still plan on getting to this after seeing the brutality of 12 Years a Slave, but my expectations have been healthily tempered. Great review Sir Brad.


  3. How weird. Just the other day I went into the break room at work and a bunch of people were beating off to Hard Ticket to Home Video. I was like – “Hey! I know those guys!” and then I realized I was seeing way too many cocks for my liking.


  4. Wow, you really didn’t like it. Too bad, I rather like this flick. I thought it was sound and the performances amazing. To each his own! Completely understand your disgust for the New York rendition and the jogging scene…I do think it’s there to add another layer of anguish and skin-crawling uneasiness.


  5. It’s still totally beyond me how Fassbender didn’t at least get a nomination for this. I get that it was an NC-17 rated movie and the Academy is a little shoddy on that, but still, this was one of the best performances from a dude that I’ve seen in a long time. And not just because he shows his wiener more times than comfortably possible, either! Good review Brad.


    • Thanks! Although I should’ve given some praise to the film like the acting was excellent and cinematography was top-notch. I think Steve McQueen has a great visual style and I still want to see 12 Years a Slave to see how well done that is. But sadly the story was lacking in Shame.


  6. I’m shocked that there wasn’t any sort of pimp stabbing altercation or disgusting STD revelation. You’ve got New York and sex addiction, the sky’s the limit fellas!


  7. Pingback: Reel Quick: Room | Hard Ticket to Home Video

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