DVD Review: Shame

STUDIO: Fox | DIRECTOR: Steve McQueen | CAST: Michael Fassbender, Carey Mulligan, James Badge Dale, Nicole Biharie, Lucy Walters, Alex Manette
BLU-RAY & DVD RELEASE DATE: 4/17/2012 | PRICE: Blu-ray/DVD Combo $39.99
BONUSES: featurettes, Fox Movie Channel Presents segment
SPECS: NC-17 | 101 min. | Drama | 2.35:1 widescreen | Dolby Digital 5.1/DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 | English and Spanish subtitles
RATINGS (out of 5 dishes): Movie | Audio | Video | Overall

An outstandingly modulated performance by Michael Fassbender (A Dangerous Method) and a series of strikingly composed sequences make for a beautifully bleak but ultimately unsatisfying drama about a New York sex addict with intimacy issues in Shame, the sophomore effort from British filmmaker Steve McQueen (Hunger).

Shame movie scene

Michael Fassbender does New York in Shame.

Unlike many movies that depict addicts as unattractive, unappealing and unsuccessful characters, Shame’s featured bad boy, Brandon (Fassbender), is a good-looking, well-dressed, successful New Yorker. (After all, who want to watch a movie about sex addiction with an unattractive, unappealing and unsuccessful leading man?) Shunning intimacy while feeding his compulsive sex addiction with a variety of women as well as solo Internet sessions, Brandon is introduced  as his addiction is beginning to grow and just when his troubled, similarly sexual sister (Carey Mulligan, The Greatest) drops in from Jersey to stay with him in his Chelsea apartment for a while. The arrival of sis and her own problems, not to mention the tension of a near-relationship that he develops with a co-worker (Nicole Beharie, The Express) only intensifies Brandon’s trip down a dangerous path…

Here’s where Shame doesn’t do its contemporary subject and solid performances justice: Brandon’s need for a more intense “high” to feed his sex addiction—be it through encounters involving danger, randomness or even other men—is presented in straight-forward fashion and though it could be considered shocking, it doesn’t answer or even hint at anything beneath it all. Addictive behavior and its resulting need for stronger doses has long been the subject of movies and novels and Shame does a fine job of depicting all that, but it doesn’t add anything new to the mix or probe the specifics of the addiction’s origins–it only glides across the glossy surface of Brandon’s problems and the actions they prompt. But it’s a beautiful trip, nonetheless—all presented with carefully composed color, pace and mise-en-scene.

The bonus materials, comprised mainly of featurettes on Fassbender, McQueen and the making of the film, were unavailable at press time.

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About Laurence

Founder and editor Laurence Lerman saw Alfred Hitchcock’s North by Northwest when he was 13 years old and that’s all it took. He has been writing about film and video for more than a quarter of a century for magazines, anthologies, websites and most recently, Video Business magazine, where he served as the Reviews Editor for 15 years.