Saturday, December 17, 2011
REVIEW: Steve McQueen's "Shame" Co-Starring Nicole Beharie
After all the anticipation and media coverage, I was able to FINALLY catch Steve McQueen's Shame co-starring the lovely Nicole Beharie last night.
If you're not aware by now of what this film is about; here it goes...Brandon is a handsome, and almost disturbingly meticulous man who holds a successful job in NYC; but he is an unhappy sex addict who avoids intimacy at all costs, opting for meaningless sex instead. His life revolves around porn, masturbation and prostitutes. The film begins to unravel once his love-starved and troubled sister shows up at his place unannounced after he ignores her countless phone calls and voicemails.
There has been a lot of talk about the copious amounts of sex in the film, but most of all, about Michael Fassbender's full frontal in the film. It is rated NC-17. Fassbender's penis is shown in passing. It isn't a close up. He is seen urinating. It isn't shocking. It hardly gives off the unnerving/creepy vibe in same vein as Harvey Keitel's full frontal in Bad Lieutenant. What you've heard about the sex scenes not being titillating; it's true. You won't get aroused.
Nicole Beharie's character Marianne works with Brandon at his office. He is attracted to her and opts to take her out on a date, which is awkward, comic and the only time we see Brandon really trying to overcome his demons in order to make a connection with this beautiful and intelligent woman. After the innocent date, Brandon sees a chance to begin a real relationship and throws away his "porn stash." In the next scene, we see him approach Marianne at the office to whisk her away to consummate their relationship.
The scene in which Brandon and her character begin foreplay at the Standard Hotel in NYC is very very realistic; It is soo well acted. It really felt like true artistic expression. It is so very honest and almost awkward given Brandon's internal turmoil at the same time. Nicole Beharie's Marianne is tender, bashful and erotic all at once. The scene isn't gratuitous at all. She is so beautifully brave, touching and real. It is one of the best love scenes ever to be recalled, and not for its titillating factor, if that makes sense. Plus, it was absolutely necessary in order to witness Brandon's aversion to real intimacy and affection.
Also very impressive and enjoyable was the chemistry between Brandon and his desperate night club singer sister Sissy, played by Carey Mulligan (I didn't get the hoopla about her nude scene whatsoever; it shouldn't be considered a "full-frontal." We see her nude briefly from a side angle shot when Brandon finds her in the shower). She is amazing in her portrayal of an emotionally unstable, quirky sister with suicidal tendencies.
Why are these siblings so damaged? The film leaves that and more to the audience to decipher. Having read the script, I wish some of the dialogue between the siblings would have made it to the screen, but it really doesn't take away from the effect of the film in general. There was much criticism about the so-called heavy-handed nature and predictability of the film's ending; which is actually poignant, dramatic and brilliantly climactic.
Most will leave the theater shocked, not because of the sex, but because of the self-destructive nature of its afflicted main character. The acting, direction, photography are masterful all around. The film is more of a character study and no, it's not for every audience. Some may be baffled by the long takes, it's unlikely hero, and lack of dialogue. The film stays with you, and the more it sinks into your psyche, the more its appreciation.
Beharie should have been shown in at least one extra scene after their "unsuccessful" hotel encounter. It will really leave you wanting to see more of her. That may be a good thing though. She should be considered for more substantive, or better yet, lead roles, where she can really get to showcase her amazing talent and magnetic screen presence.
Hopefully, Michael Fassbender and Carey Mulligan won't get robbed of nominations for Academy Awards next year. Steve McQueen will most likely be ignored from a well-deserved directing nod, since he hasn't been considered so far at the major awards this season, which is really a Shame.