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Shame (2011)

20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
Blu-ray Disc Released: 4/17/2012

All Ratings out of



Review by Mike Long, Posted on 4/15/2012

Over the years, we've seen plenty of movies which deal with alcoholism and drug addiction. Movies like Requiem for a Dream, Trainspotting, and Leaving Las Vegas depict the pain, torture, and desperation which those in the throes of addiction experience. These movies show us that addiction can strike most anyone and that it can have a grave effect on those around them. Most of these movies send an important message, and some have garnered great praise. But, what about other addictions? Gambling? (Vegas Vacation?) Internet? (Feardotcom?) Sex addiction has been in the news a lot lately and it's not surprising that we're beginning to see movies about it. What is surprising is just how bad a movie like Shame can be.

Shame introduces us to Brandon Sullivan (Michael Fassbender), a successful businessman who lives in Manhattan. Brandon has a very nice apartment and enjoys the finer things in life. He also loves women and anything related to sex. He has frequent one-night stands, uses prostitutes, and spends a lot of time on-line browsing adult sites and participating in private shows. Despite this, Brandon maintains his job, even excelling at it, and he's popular with his co-workers, most notably his boss, David (James Badge Dale), who admires his ability to pick up women. Things do get a bit awkward when Brandon's wayward sister, Sissy (Carey Mulligan), comes to visit. Her presence interrupts Brandon's normal routine, especially when she brings men back to the apartment. An encounter with Marianne (Nicole Beharie) makes Brandon question his life, but can he ever change?

Shame garnered some publicity when the distributors decided to take the dreaded NC-17 rating and for the fact that up-and-coming actor Fassbender appeared nude in the film. The film got more attention when Fassbender was nominated for a Golden Globe. Note that none of these things deal with the quality of the film itself. The less attention drawn to this, the better.

This may be one of the most misguided movies that I've ever seen. Sullivan is depicted as a successful man who is popular with the ladies and suffers no consequences for his behaviors. He feels some occasional guilt, and the titular shame, but not much else happens. In many ways, Shame reminded me of American Psycho, as we are presented with a man who participates in (supposedly) aberrant behavior, but because of his station in life and the shallow nature of those around him, he never gets caught. The term “sex addiction” is never used and the movie never depicts anything that he is doing as being “wrong”.

So, what’s the point of Shame? I certainly don’t know. The movie clearly wants to tell a story, but it often strays from the point (whatever that is). Sissy’s arrival complicates things for Brandon and there are some awkward moments which hint that incest is inevitable, but little comes of her story until the finale. If the movie’s point is simply to be shocking and controversial, then it fails on that front as well. I can imagine that truly conservative and close-minded people may find the film scandalous, but given what is shown on network television these days, the additional nudity and sex references don’t really go that far.

To be honest, I don't think that the movie has any idea what it wants to be. Director Steve McQueen (not the deceased actor, who would've done a better job, despite the fact that he's dead) has filled the movie with long, long takes in which nothing happens. These torturous and mind-numbing scenes just go on-and-on. He's also failed to add any tension to the movie. What if Brandon gets caught? By who? We never have the sense that he's going to be in any real trouble. This has to do with the lack of emotion in the film. Perhaps the intention was to make a movie which mimics Brandon's lack of feeling for others, but the result was a cold, leaden movie.

A friend of mine who is a forensic psychiatrist once told me that sex addiction only shows up when a legal issue is involved. Well, we don't get anything like that in Shame, a movie which truly misses the boat. There are so many directions that this film could have gone in, but it simply walks a straight line and presents us with a man whose behavior probably isn't all that different from a lot of single, successful men who live in big cities, but we are supposed to be shocked and label him as being sick. Everyone involved in this movie should certainly feel shame.

Shame tries to make having a turntable seem cool on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 35 Mbps. The image is very sharp and clear, showing no intrusive grain and no defects from the source material. The colors look very good and the image is never overly dark or bright. The level of detail is excellent and the picture has an overall very crisp look. The depth is very good as well, and shown by the jogging scenes (which goes on forever). The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 4.0 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. For a slow drama, the track delivers some nice effects. The music sounds great, as it fills the front and rear channels. The subway provides a low rumble, as we get definite stereo movement as it passes by. Club scenes offer detailed surround sound effects.

The Shame Blu-ray Disc contains several extras, although they are all brief. "Focus on Michael Fassbender" (3 minutes) has the actor discussing his character and the story, as many clips from the movie play. We get a similar piece with "Director Steve McQueen" (3 minutes) who gives his opinions about the themes in the film and his approach to the material. "The Story of Shame" (3 minutes) feels like a mash-up of the first two segments with the addition of comments from Carey Mulligan. "A Shared Vision" (3 minutes) is a brief making-of which contains additional comments from Fassbender, McQueen, and Mulligan talking more about the actual production. "Fox Movie Channel Presents: In Character with Michael Fassbender" (5 minutes) is a brief interview with the actor. The final extra is the THEATRICAL TRAILER for the film.

Review Copyright 2012 by Mike Long