Posted by: greercn | January 10, 2012


Funny old concept, shame. Psychotherapists base successful businesses on helping people overcome it.

Judged as a piece of art, “Shame” has quite a lot that is beautiful, original and thought-provoking. The way the sheets on the bed get changed from blue to white, the delicacy in the mundane and the scenes of the lone  jogger in the middle of the night stay with you, like a fantastic picture on a canvas.

As a movie, I have some issues with it. I care about continuity and one of Carey Mulligan’s big scenes as Sissy is undermined, for me, by three changes in her hair colour in what is supposed to be one scene with some urgency. I accept that actors need to change clothes and have several sets of different costumes.  But somebody should make sure that one of these “identical costumes” isn’t slightly faded, in a scene the depends on observing agony.

These are minor quibbles – but I have so many more of them!

In case you know nothing about “Shame”, here’s the plot. Brandon is a successful New York City professional who manages his sex addiction but is gradually being subsumed by it. His computer at work is taken away, because there is so much pornography on it.

The delicate balance of his career and addiction becomes unhinged when his needy sister comes to stay with him, in a small apartment. New York’s Standard Hotel, with its compelling Hudson River views, is the main indoor set.

If you are going for the graphic sex and nudity scenes, you may be disappointed rather than aroused. This is rather a nasty vision of sex as a fuel for an addict.

Michael Fassbender is wonderful in the lead. he just glows with energy and gets you to feel truly sympathetic to him. As in “Hunger”, be brings a new depth to each character he plays for director Steve McQueen.

I have spent a lot of my life in Canada and the USA and a great deal of time in New York City. I love the city. Abi Morgan – such a brilliant TV and movie writer – gets the dialogue wrong, too often. It feels like she wrote scenes for people from London, England and then had some Americans listen to them and correct, piecemeal. The adjustments feel disjointed and I am constantly changing dialogue in my head, as I am watching.

Carey Mulligan shines as Sissy, because she is a wonderful actress. But her accent drifts uncomfortably and this bothered me. Still, she manages the big emotional scenes well. Her singing may be electronically adjusted – I am sure it is – but it’s still very special and affecting.

I like very much that the damage to both brother and sister – causing different types of shame – was hinted at in an artsy way rather than stated. And I adored the look and feel of this.

I saw it at Stratford Picturehouse in a disappointingly small audience. There was a question and answer session via satellite from the Curzon Mayfair afterwards. This was monopolised by the presenter, who seemed very uncomfortable and managed to speak in double entendres that kept the audience at Stratford giggling.

As an example, he asked “Did you use your instinct to enquire into sex addiction?” – oh, how we giggled like schoolkids.

The Curzon live audience just nudged each other. Such well brought up people.

Steve McQueen (yes, I know who he is but I always see the car chase in “Bullitt”) and Abi Morgan discussed the process of making the movie and that was fascinating. They wanted to set it in London, but couldn’t find sufficient sex addicts who were willing to tell all. Even after Princess Diana’s death, Brits don’t like to share everything in public. Who knew?

Even with my misgivings, it’s an engaging and different movie and you have to see it. Just get swept away by the story and ignore my concerns. I am such a picky pedant. I am almost ashamed of it.



  1. “They wanted to set it in London, but couldn’t find sufficient sex addicts who were willing to tell all.”
    This is surely irrelevant given that the movie used actors! It is probably more to do with NYC being more erotically charged than London though the skyline shots used in The Apprentice (UK) show it doesn’t need to be this way.

    • That’s what Steve McQueen and Abi Morgan said. But I agree that your point is more likely to be the truth. Thanks for the great comment, Bill!

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