Steve McQueen’s Shame offers the story of Michael Fassbender, a New York City something or other, who is a sex addict. We learn this because he flirts with women on the subway, engages prostitutes, and masturbates/watches porn morning, noon and night. When his unbalanced sister, Carey Mulligan, comes to visit, his equilibrium is shattered, either because she is nude in his apartment, she sleeps with his boss, or she references their childhood. No matter. This is the kind of film that is destined to have as a penultimate scene Fassbender on his knees, in the rain, with a “will he or won’t he crawl back into sex addiction?” finale.
Why is Fassbender this way? As Mulligan says, “we’re not bad people. We just come from a bad place.” However, that place is actually identified in the script as either Ireland or New Jersey. And that is the sum and substance of motivation, backstory or reason.
In place of exposition, McQueen provides pointless, overly showy scenes, including a long, several block Fassbender jog through the streets of NYC; a preposterous nightclub song by Mulligan (she sings “New York, New York” and sports a Marilynesque “Happy birthday, Mr. President” skintight dress); and, a ridiculous threesome with Fassbender and two women that is half Obsession by Calvin Klein, half Showtime soft core.
“I know how you feel, pal.”
My wife summed it up beautifully: “I don’t even think he was a sex addict.” Her comment is akin to watching Raging Bull and declaring, “I don’t even think he was a boxer.”
Also, Hans Zimmer should sue the composer, Harry Escott, who ripped his work off on The Thin Red Line damn near note for note.
The 1.5 stars are awarded because our good friend’s sister is in the picture and the movie looks great.