Tuesday, January 31, 2012


I didn't know what to expect going into this, except that I knew Michael Fassbender would be excellent, as always. He was, of course, but I thought the film was very good as well, better than I thought it would be. Some of the criticism that I'd heard, that the film was overwrought, that it would've been more interesting if Brandon (Fassbender's damaged, sex-addicted character) actually enjoyed the sex, seems to me more of a criticism of the very notion of sex-addiction. Because it's funny, right, sex addiction? We should all be so lucky. So I for one believed the grimacing awful looks on Brandon's face as he tried to fulfill something through meaningless sex. Everything about him, the way he talked, the way he moved, was the way a man in incredible pain, and constant rage, would move and talk. And the sex addiction was really a symptom, covering up whatever horror had been inflicted on Brandon at a young age (ditto with his sister, the equally excellent Carey Mulligan). They fuck you up, your mum and dad, etcetera ... or, as Sissy (the sister) says, "We are not bad people but we came from a bad place."

So here's my problem with the film and it's a fairly minor problem (fairly major for Charlene), but why sit through a movie that moves from Point A all the way back again to Point A, both points being horrifically bleak. There's an ambiguous ending (a little annoying, actually) that leaves open the idea that Brandon might have changed slightly but that's about it. There is no redemption and almost no hope. There is no character arc. I guess I wouldn't have minded a little more of this movie, an actual presentation of Brandon at least trying to get better, seeking help. This isn't so much because I need happy endings (I don't) but because I think it would be interesting. Otherwise, what are we watching besides pain, brilliantly acted?


  1. A great article dealing with how people are viewing the sex addiction part (the whole movie) of "Shame" written by someone who has gone through addiction of a different sort-seriously its worth the read:

    Now, you know me, I am not against bleak movies in particular, and I thought "Shame" overall was pretty good, and I thought Fassbender was excellent. And I seem to be one of the few that actually liked the "New York, New York" part. I think for people that don't have said addiction, it is hard to understand almost ANY addiction really, and in some way ways it is hard for people to understand this as an addiction and not just someone who is incredibly attractive that can have an equally attractive person at his office pretty much straight up proposition him next to the coffeemaker. Or the fact that he is able to find the best looking prostitutes. When it comes down to it, that's the audience's fault for forgetting he is in real pain and not the filmmaker's fault in making the movie. Where was I? That being said Steve McQueen is obviously a world class miserabalist-his movies look beautiful, and they are hard to take, rightfully so, but I think Charlene has a point, is what I am saying.

    Oh, one last thing, speaking of points, do you have an idea of what the point might have been with the long scene on his date, where the waiter kept interrupting them? Just awkwardness of a first date, magnified for him?

  2. I have read Glenn Kenney's remarkable article. It's a great piece, and a perfect counterpunch to that talented asshole Anthony Lane.

    I, too, liked the New York, New York part. Strange criticism about that scene, as well, like no one would listen to that song sung that way in a New York bar. Really? Or that Brandon crying was over the top. She's his suicidal sister.

    Yeah, the waiter was baffling. My guess is that the scene was improvised and Steve McQueen wanted to up the awkwardness by having an intrusive waiter. Who knows.