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Shame (2011)

I seem to spend alot of time staring at other people standing in corridors, or waiting for lifts, usually in towns not dissimilar to the one we witness here. Almost entirely, they are moody pauses with hungry décor that needs a good meal. Bland innerscapes that say as many bad things about the location manager as they do about the taste of the Director. Still, this appears to be the order of the day, so you just have to roll with it. I do feel the need to point out, however, that you can be brooding, serious and Oscar hungry, yet still be partial to the odd bit of Day-Glo green.

Not here, however. Steve McQueen dresses Fassbender and his immediate environs as he does his soul. Like a minimalist because it propels the lead character forward. There are no pictures on his apartment walls, his taste in dining is picked largely by his waiters, his patter is grade school and given his success with women, some paid and some for free, he appears as a fortunately monied, deviant loner with an unpalatable hobby. Passionless, emotionless and driven only by his addictions and acting out only those roles that will afford him to continue enjoying them. Not drugs or booze for our lead here though. Fassbender's Brandon is an honest too goodness bloodless sex addict.

And it would seem that, aside from the occasional cleansing of his hard drive at work, this is all going swimmingly. Brandon seems happy with his Chinese takeaways and internet porn at home, his nocturnal forays with his boss of an evening, seemingly picking up crumpet wherever he goes. He could probably just go on like this forever. He seems pretty much set. Not offending anyone and nobody meddling in a life he is quietly guarded over. That is until Sissy comes along. His sister is a whirlwind in his sedate, if sordid, existence, throwing bags of turmoil into his calm golden waters.

This is pretty basic stuff from McQueen. The story is far from complicated, much like the lead. Yes, we gather that he is a sex addict and he will continue to do this to greater and greater heights to get his kicks, like any addict needs more hits and of greater strength to eventually just get by. Even when a sniff of emotion shows its face, he's as flaccid as a randy tomcat that just got back from the vet. If love threatens to rear it's ugly head, he's off like a rat up an aqueduct.

You can't help but wonder if McQueen has ever seen Adrian Lyne's 9.5 Weeks. That is as much a story of being lost in a world you have no control over as it is about sex and perversions thereof, a downward spiral of self gratifying smut in a city that really doesn't care what you do or who you do it to, as long as you leave them alone and don't hit them in the face.

The writing often borders on pre-school and Mulligan's performance regularly dwells there. Most lines out of her mouth come off as cheesy and cliched, predictable and thoughtless. Neither of the leads here are in any way likeable in fact. Fassbender has a very good stab at being both vacant and angry all at once and it must have been a feat to pull off. Mulligan's Sissy is indeed a drama queen of the worst kind, though at times you almost side with her, despite all of her annoying traits, so repellent is her brother.

The film has received some great reviews by lots of important people that clearly see something in this effort that I do not. Yes, it is a great movie for a director of such limited experience, but like Elizabeth Olsen in MMMM, are we right to judge a newcomer with less credibility and more grace than someone with more experience? Surely, it should not be a great job for a newcomer. Either it's a great job, or it isn't. If Nolan had directed this, I would have been sorely disappointed. If Shyamalan had, I would have been surprised and a bit happy. All this tells me is that the film, as a standalone product was okay. I have seen much, much better. I have seen Mickey Rourke do it better, in fact, and that is saying something.

Shame indeed.

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