This is the type of movie one watches with a fair amount of dread because of all the hype surrounding it. Human expectation really is an awful thing. All this talk of how great the lead performance is or how brave and dark the filmmaking is, really stacks the odds against the film. There are few (if any) films that can live up to raised expectations. Shame is not one of them.
Brandon (Michael Fassbender) is a slave to his libido. But he is also an urbane hunter. He doesn’t allow himself to be frustrated by missed opportunities. He knows the next conquest is not much further down the road. And when he’s not getting it in the real world he finds release in the virtual world. In fact it appears that his entire life revolves around finding carnal release.
Now the plot—if one can call it that—is affected by the sudden appearance of his sister Sissy (Carey Mulligan) into his carefully ordered life of casual dalliances and no-regrets-in-the-morning. She is a singer who has lined up a performance in a local bar, and she really wants her brother to come watch her do her thing. Apart from the bar gig, her life seems to revolve around using modern telephony to harangue whatever man is currently in her life.
Because this is an ‘Adult’ movie, Sissy hooks up with Brandon’s boss David (James Badge Dale, he played Kim Bauer’s boyfriend in 24), in Brandon’s apartment!
And then things go to hell. Or depending upon your view of Brandon’s lifestyle maybe he was already in hell and was granted access to a new circle upon Sissy’s arrival.
Beyond a point, I watched Shame as a filmmaking exercise. The sequence that introduces his character has an interesting editing pattern, and that same pattern is used to even greater effect when we see him—on a train again—with bruises on his face. The sequence in the restaurant between Brandon and Marianne (Nicole Beharie), with interruptions by a waiter, was also well done.
Shame is a good example of cool, stylish filmmaking. But I don’t know how one is supposed to ever really get into a narrative that gives the impression of being eavesdropped-upon. From what I saw of Brandon I was most disappointed to learn that he didn’t possess a Patrick Bateman streak.
What does that say about me?