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Heather's DVD Review: Shame

Updated on January 5, 2020
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Heather has a Bachelor's Degree in English from Moravian College and has been freelance writing for more than 14 years.

Shame Poster #1
Shame Poster #1
Shame Poster #2
Shame Poster #2
Shame Poster #3
Shame Poster #3
Mulligan, Badge Dale and Fassbender have a night out in "Shame."
Mulligan, Badge Dale and Fassbender have a night out in "Shame."
Beharie and Fassbender take a walk in "Shame."
Beharie and Fassbender take a walk in "Shame."
Shame Poster #4
Shame Poster #4

What happens when you see a successful man? A nice suit and an even nicer smile played a large part of the equation. What lies underneath that attractive surface could be something darker? That's the premise behind the DVD release of the movie Shame, which had some shockingly good results and a few disappointing ones as well.

Shame followed a successful New York businessman named Brandon (Michael Fassbender) who had everything a man could want: wealth, power and a revolving door of women leaving his apartment. What people don't see is that Brandon is addicted to sex in every form from porn to sleeping with random women to fill a nagging void in his life that his estranged sister Sissy (Carey Mulligan) is part of. Brandon doesn't take it well when Sissy inserted herself into his life, which included her sleeping with his married boss (James Badge Dale) and catching onto one of his dark secrets. He attempted to date a work colleague (Nicole Beharie) to find some normalcy, but Brandon failed to make a complete connection with her. His demons came to an ugly head when Sissy pushed their shared dark past and led to a pivotal moment that will change them both forever. Can brother and sister survive this moment or fall victim to their demons?

In terms of plot, Shame had the potential of being a modern version of Last Tango in Paris, but it fell short on some of the emotional heft that Tango had. Shame's goal was to examine dark sexual troubles between two troubled siblings, but the film never delved into what made Brandon and Sissy so emotionally damaged. It must have been something shocking to make Brandon turn to sex to feel human and Sissy to keep making destructive choices when it came to unavailable men. The film's ending seemed more like a beginning of things to come than an actual conclusion.

Sadly, that's what hindered the movie overall was an uneven focus of the plot. Sure, it was shocking and fascinating to watch Fassbender go for broke as the shattered Brandon who did things on-screen that most actors would shy away from. In one of his first scenes, he walked in front of the camera completely naked on more than one occasion. That moment told audiences that he was game for anything and was an actor worth watching. What would've made his performance more impactful would be if the plot focused on the dark origins of Sissy and Brandon's relationship.

Mulligan's pivotal moments were early in the film when she sang a somber version of "New York, New York" and towards the end when she did something extreme to get Brandon's attention. This last scene helped bring the relationship between the siblings to the forefront, but it still left viewers hanging ultimately. Director Steven McQueen only seemed to scratch the surface between the two of them, but Mulligan and Fassbender made the most of their emotionally brutal scenes. Hopefully, the two of them will get the chance to work together again because their on-screen rapport was super charged and could've been worth exploring if given the right opportunity. Oh well, maybe next time.

Verdict: Despite the risque story, Shame delved into the heart of one family's pain and guilt over a dark past. The only thing missing was the reason why they behaved so strangely.

DVD Score: 3 out of 5 stars

Movie Rating: NC-17 (Not for the faint of heart, but for those looking to see something a little outside the norms of movie storytelling.)

Score Chart
1 Star (Mediocre)
2 Stars (Averagely Entertaining)
3 Stars (Decent Enough to Pass Muster)
4 Stars (Near Perfect)
5 Stars (Gold Standard)


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