Shame Movie Review: Sour Sex Romp The Opposite of Viagra


A movie delving into the recklessly voracious appetite of a Big Apple sour sex addict, Shame is about anything but. And might have been more aptly handed the title of UK director Steve McQueen’s previous first time feature about IRA political prisoner fasting in Ireland, Hunger.

Michael Fasssbender, who has been just as busy lately as Carl Jung in David Cronenberg’s A Dangerous Method – eagerly engaged in supposedly less erotic than therapeutic spanking applied to the derriere of a squealing Keira Knightley – is Brandon in Shame. A lower echelon corporate suit who seems to rarely make an appearance at work save for surfing porn sites on his office computer, the emotionally estranged Brandon cruises day and night for stranger sex, whether clubbing or sifting through the want ads, virtual and otherwise.

Intermittently raining on his porn parade, is Sissy (Carey Mulligan), his equally gloomy, clinging sister and an aspiring nightclub singer. And while Sissy appears to have the opposite problem of extreme emotional neediness with men, that when unrequited may precipitate attempted suicide, we aren’t offered a clue. Aside from rare personal details shared with the audience, like the eccentric siblings hailing from Ireland by way of Jersey – which only clouds character insights further. Though there are suggestions here and there that growing up with a dysfunctional sister who has routinely been into wrist slashing and related self mutilation because of boredom in the burbs, may have subsequently alienated Brandon from intimacy with females for good.

In any case, this serial sex fanatic looks so utterly miserable every time we’re privy to catching him doing it in the buff – which is pretty much all the time – that the most pressing question seems to be, why even bother. Since addicts are presumed to be chasing some sort of high, however momentary. And with a story about a thrill seeker that is not exactly thrilling, the audience should in the least be made a little more aware than the tight-lipped, prurient protagonist of what’s going through his mind, even if he isn’t.

The only thing that may be said to be unique about Shame, is Hollywood’s rare venture into NC-17 territory. Along with a not unrelated notion about that sexually explicit NC tag – Not a Condom in sight.

Fox Searchlight

Rated NC-17

one star

Prairie Miller is a New York multimedia journalist online, in print and radio, who reviews movies and conducts in-depth interviews. She can also be heard on WBAI/Pacifica National Radio Network’s Arts Express.