For Reel

Shame (2011)
January 7, 2012, 12:45 am
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Steve McQueen

For such an intensely focused character study, it is unusual that Shame often feels so unspecific and directionless. This is not a problem for the first two thirds of the picture – after all, the character’s emotional detachment is director Steve McQueen’s biggest interest – but as the film tramples towards its climax, things turn ludicrous in a hurry. Michael Fassbender’s “low” sees him enter a gay nightclub which, with its black, grisly hallways, is designed to appear like hell itself. As good as the actor is, it’s hard to take him seriously as he contorts his face into orgiastic agony while receiving a blow job, and, worse yet, as he crumbles to his knees during a jog on a rainy morning. McQueen never earns these moments – the ticking clock heard on the soundtrack in the beginning of the picture is clearly leading to an explosion, but when it comes it feels overdramatic and silly. Before it is clear that the film has nowhere to go, however, things are compelling enough. There’s a great date scene shot in a single take (a stylistic element that was expected to repeat after McQueen’s memorable use of them in his previous, much better picture, Hunger), and just about all of the actors, outside of Fassbender’s womanizing boss, are in top form. That the film never lives up to this preliminary potential is a sizable disappointment.

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