Shame (2011) – 4.5/5

Brilliant, well written, well acted psychological sexual drama that’s not nearly as graphic as you’ve probably been led to believe by the childish Hollywood hype machine that ruins all that is good and proper by infusing it with an element of unwarranted, overblown scandal whenever it thinks it’ll help sell tickets and/or create artificial interest. If anything, the movie is remarkably restrained in what it does and doesn’t show, choosing instead to focus on the effect such acts have on our troubled, inexplicably self-destructive main character.

Don’t get me wrong: this certainly isn’t a children’s movie. But it’s certainly not a full-blown sleaze fest, either. It’s one of those rare creatures you hear a lot about but rarely ever see anymore: an intelligent adult film. And it’s entertaining to boot. Who’d have thought? Beautifully, yet simply, shot, with some great performances all around, especially from squishy faced Carey Mulligan who is not only adorable as heck here, but somehow actually gives her best performance in a film yet. And this is a girl who has stolen scenes from just about every actor she’s starred alongside in just about every film she’s been in. And yet, here she is, topping herself once again.

How the hell is this girl so damn talented? And, best of all, **SPOILERS** she’s completely naked in this, and spends half the movie in one state of undress or another in a sort of strange incestuous battle with Michael Fassbender to determine which of them can stay the most nude in the presence of the other the longest. **END SPOILERS** I liked the fact that the nature of their relationship, and, in turn, the nature of their family growing up, is left mostly open-ended, the implication at times being **SPOILERS** that something traumatic happened back then that may have turned them into the damaged people they are today. **END SPOILERS**

I loved how they both have similar issues in a lot of ways, but have dealt with them in different, yet similarly self-destructive ways. Fassbender is decent here, though he’s given the very difficult, much less showy role so it’s understandable that he’d seem very detached for most of the film. He’s playing a detached character, so naturally his performance would come off as detached. Still, I don’t know; compared to Mulligan, he’s a distant second. The girl is too talented for her own good.

Overall, I could get more into the film’s plot, or talk about some of my favorite scenes, but I don’t want to spoil anything. The film is deep and thought-provoking and occasionally disturbing, but also, to its credit, quite funny at times. It’s a psychological study of a character whose behavior is never really explained or discussed or rationalized, only shown, and that’s what makes it so effective. It doesn’t try to preach or resolve, it just presents, and leaves it to us to fill in the blanks, and that’s a very bold decision for a movie to make in this day and age.

That being said, I did have a slight issue with the last 10 minutes or so. Though it works, it was somewhat forced, almost as though the director felt obligated to wrap things up in a conventional Hollywood manner when he really didn’t need to. I would have actually preferred that the movie hadn’t shown **SPOILERS** Mulligan’s character having attempted suicide, and left it with the more interesting visual implication that she jumped in front of the train after Fassbender’s insane night long sex bender. **END SPOILERS**

But whatever. The film is still great. And that last shot was perfect. Sure, it’s confusing at first, and had me scratching my head and, frankly, a little angry, but I got it after some thinking. I mean, how the hell else were they going to end it? With a dance party?

So, yeah, brilliant film. Couldn’t recommend it more, unless you really want to see Michael Fassbender all hot and heavy for two hours, in which case, well, you’re in for a treat. Sort of.

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