By William Wolf

NEW YORK FILM FESTIVAL 2011--SHAME  Send This Review to a Friend

The best reason for seeing director Steve McQueen’s “Shame” is the performance by the charismatic Michael Fassbender, handsome and one of those special actors who command attention. In this stark and sometimes sexually explicit film, which McQueen co-wrote with Abi Morgan, Fassbender plays Brandon, a New Yorker who has problems relating to women beyond having sex with them. Frequent flings are in, commitment is out.

Sex is very much on his mind, virtually to the point of addiction, whether it is watching porn or picking up women and getting them into bed. There is one telling scene in which he dines with a charming young woman and they begin to become personally close. But because the woman is more of a person to him than an object, he fails to perform. We next see him with a prostitute, and he’s all action.

Carey Mulligan has a major role as Sissy, Brandon’s erratic, troubled sister, who flits in and out of his life. There is an odd tension between them that suggests sexual feelings have existed, but what we see mainly is Sissy’s self-destructiveness and Brandon’s attempt to deal with her and all the angst she brings when she wants shelter in his apartment.

McQueen provides the film with emotional sharpness. And yet there is something lacking. Brandon comes across more as someone who never grew up than as one with a serious sex addiction. In any event, one can lose patience with him and his behavior. The film is not as deep as it apparently aspires to be. But one thing is a constant. Fassbender the actor is always fascinating to watch.


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