Saturday, December 24, 2011

Movie Review: Shame (there's porn too)

The most revealing sequence in Steve McQueen’s painful yet masterful Shame is when Brandon (Michael Fassbender) takes a coworker out to a nice restaurant for a date. In this incredibly awkward encounter, Brandon discloses his disdain for marriage (he makes some very strong points, incidently) and firmly establishes himself as a weirdo who can’t quite communicate well with the other humans. He’s not completely unlovable, but his deep personal issues make it difficult to truly connect with people. He manages to get a second “date,” but it goes downhill quickly, and we get to see how severe Brandon’s intimacy issues really are.

Brandon is a sex addict, and McQueen’s triumph in this film is showing this condition to the audience in a way that effectively conveys both its ugliness and its heartache. This addiction can be just as debilitating as alcoholism and drug abuse in the way it compels its victims, but its stigma causes the average person to not even recognize it as a problem. Shame presents this issue in a surprisingly balanced way in that it shows the addict attempting to live normally, and it gives insight into the ultimate cause for his current struggles.

The film opens with (I say this so that you will be prepared) full frontal Fassbender. You see a completely naked Brandon walking around his apartment with his member flopping around in all its art house movie glory. If you’re in the theater with the right groups of people, you won’t hear any giggles or gasps, however. This is graphic, but it is far from gratuitous. Brandon’s cock is what the movie is about. This film is also about revealing a complete individual in all of his complexities, and the opening scenes set the stage for some of the other tough moments to come. In the first 15-20 minutes of the film, you will get a clear picture of the protagonist’s compulsion.

Brandon’s world is changed when his troubled younger sister Sissy (Carey Mulligan) comes to live with him. He finds himself forced to confront not only the shame associated with his addiction, but the troubled past that he and his sister evidently share. One of the more interesting aspects of this film is Brandon and Sissy’s strange relationship. It also may be a flaw in many people’s minds that this relationship did not play a more prominent role. I would be one of those people, as I think that this complicated relationship would have made for a fuller storyline and that it would have given Mulligan, who is outstanding in the film, more of a vehicle for her skills.

McQueen’s choice was to make the Fassbender’s character the focus of the film, and the actor does an amazing job of capturing the pain of sexual addiction. Even when Brandon isn’t speaking, his facial expressions speak volumes. I’m not qualified to make this assessment, but I believe Fassbender has given us one of the best acting performances of the year, and has possibly garnered his first Oscar nod. I hope the NC-17 rating does not hinder this.

Aside from Fassbender’s otherwordly performance is the way sex is depicted in the film. When I heard that this was a movie about sexual addiction and that it had the aforementioned rating, I thought it could turn into another oversexed indie movie (and a must see for a perv like me), but McQueen, Fassbender, and company manage to depict sex in a way that isn’t sexy at all, and it is a major win for this movie. There is a sequence where Brandon has sex with himself, and at least three others in one night, culminating in a threesome that would be the fantasy of most men, and it is possibly the most horrifying few minutes of any movie you’ll see this year. Sex by compulsion, sex as a sedative or an escape, can be painful, and Shame’s sex scenes convey this pain in a way that makes it anything but jerk off material. The anguish on Fassbender’s face as he’s banging one of the ladies in this threesome from behind, desperately attempting to stake his demon through the heart with every stroke, is something you will not soon forget.

I also loved this movie because I can truly identify with the main character. Obviously, a guy who runs a porn blog may have some semblance of a sex addiction. I don’t consider myself an addict (that’s what they all say, right?), and I definitely don’t have the deep-seated issues of Fassbender’s character, but sex, and the preoccupation with sex, is a big aspect of my life. Maybe I am an addict, but I am certainly much more functional than Brandon.

Another great aspect of the movie—and I haven’t seen this on every review and website—is that Carey Mulligan goes full frontal as well, and it is worth the price of admission. Carey is a breathtaking woman with or without her clothing, and I was pleasantly surprised that she has a little meat on the bone. Now I want to see her fuck. Shit… I’m starting to perv out here, so I better post some porn.

Anyway… see this movie. It’s entertaining, troubling, and thought-provoking. I’d love to hear what you might have thought of it as well.

Here's the porn I promised. Bettie Pumpkin doing some creative face sitting. Beautiful stuff...

It's Christmas time, so we also have a few shots from the adorable Beccabae, from her BigCuties site. Enjoy...

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to you all. BBWF still loves you, and I promise more posts in the coming year...

Be blessed, kids...