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.
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.
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.
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.
Score: 4 little fassbenders (out of 10)