Combustible Celluloid
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With: Michael Fassbender, Carey Mulligan, James Badge Dale, Nicole Beharie, Lucy Walters
Written by: Abi Morgan, Steve McQueen
Directed by: Steve McQueen
MPAA Rating: NC-17 for some explicit sexual content
Running Time: 101
Date: 09/04/2011

Shame (2011)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Naked Emotions

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Despite the heavy graphic content, Shame is far from a porn film. Director Steve McQueen (Hunger) presents this material in a respectful, artistic manner, favoring long takes and spare dialogue. The quiet, moody film focuses more on a character's behavior than on a plot or a conclusion. Rather than a stern treatise on the dangers of sexual addiction, McQueen's approach allows viewers to enter into the situation at their own pace, and find their own emotional connection.

Brandon Sullivan (Michael Fassbender) has a problem. He can't seem to control his addiction to sex. Women throw themselves at him, and he sleeps with him. He hires prostitutes, watches porn on his computer (even at work), and masturbates compulsively. He tries to keep this life secret, but things get complicated when Brandon upsets his boss's plans to pick up a pretty girl in a bar. The boss also discovers a cache of porn on his computer hard drive. At the same time, Brandon's sister (Carey Mulligan) arrives and asks to stay with him. This new situation, coupled with Brandon's shame and self-loathing leads to many sibling arguments. Can she help, or will Brandon need to hit rock bottom before finding help?

While the erotic content stands out, McQueen creates many other, memorable scenes, such as Brandon weeping at his sister sings a slow, moving rendition of "New York, New York" in a nightclub, or a mesmerizing scene in which Brandon jogs down the streets of New York for long minutes, drowning out the noise with Glenn Gould on his headphones, and trying to re-focus himself. In the two lead roles, Michael Fassbender and Carey Mulligan tread dangerous territory, and both succeed admirably.

Fox's Blu-Ray is the perfect way to see this beautifully-composed movie. The transfer and sound are immaculate. Unfortunately, the extras are pretty pathetic, just a handful of very short, studio-produced featurettes. The two-disc set includes a bonus DVD and digital copy.

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