While we were in New York City last month, PJ and I saw Shame directed by Steve McQueen and starring Michael Fassbender and Carey Mulligan. Fassbender plays Brandon, a high-functioning sex addict who’s delicately balanced world is thrown off keel when his sister, played by Mulligan, comes for an unexpected visit. Here’s the trailer:
Shame is a fascinating character study. The film’s emphasis is less on plot — Brandon drifts from one sexual liaison to the next without a whole lot of direction or purposefulness — and more on examining what’s happening to Brandon as he grapples with trying to make connections without other people. The way I saw it, sex is the only way in which he can connect, and when women — his sister and a beautiful co-worker, played by Nicole Beharie, begin to make demands on him that involve anything even remotely emotional, his world begins to fall apart.
We first saw Fassbender in Hunger, McQueen’s 2008 brilliant first feature about the 1981 Irish hunger strike. Fassbender was amazing in that role, and he’s equally great here. Both films focus on Fassbender’s body, but in very different ways. In Hunger, his character starves himself to death. Here, Brandon is obsessed with replacing the emotional with the physical. He’s a man who can’t satiate his emotional needs with sex, but he nevertheless tries and tries and tries.
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