shameShame really is an NC-17 film in telling the story of a man addicted to sex.

Stars: Michael Fassbinder, Carey Mulligan and James Badge Dale
Director/Scriptwriter: Steve McQueen
Fox Searchlight
Rating: NC-17 for full frontal nudity, profanity, drug use and explicit sex scenes
Running Length: 100 minutes
It used to be that a movie having an NC-17 rating would be the kiss of death for the film and any movie theater showing the film. However, with cable and television series such as Spartacus or Rome, PG-13 pushing an NC-17 rating came right into the living room. Shame really is an NC-17 film in telling the story of a man addicted to sex. How does one become addicted to sex?  Will power goes out the window and gotta-have-it takes over. Michael Fassbinder as Brandon, in the last third of the film, finally gives us a man who realizes he is in emotional trouble and doesn't know which way to go. Before then, the movie is like an actor looking for a script and he isn't helped by an overwrought Carey Mulligan who plays his younger sister, Sissy.  As written and directed by Steve McQueen, Shame becomes tepid.
The audience meets Brandon and sees he has a good paying job, contemporary apartment, goes to bars with his boss (James Badge Dale) and then goes to any prostitute (male or female) that he can find. Dangerous sex should have been the title of this movie. Brandon seems to have a death wish with his life and while he is cozily in his apartment, who should appear, but Sissy, fresh from a break-up with her boyfriend. He doesn't want her there, but she is family, and before you can say “dishes go in the sink” Sis shows her wild side and you get a glimpse of a younger family life with problems galore. Sis is a singer and while the audience in the movie appreciated the slow-motion music, the audience in the theater was bored. Sis discovers Brandon’s addiction and that is when conflict comes between the siblings. Sis starts to spiral downward. Brandon begins to question his own life and finds he is way down on the totem pole. Here are people who grab on to anything---drugs, sex---to keep from facing life. Something in their inner core is missing.
As it stands, Shame is a movie about a sex addict who lives his life his way until it affects family. Such a story could have had impact on an audience, but with writer/director McQueen, the impact comes from explicit sex scenes. There is an old adage of  “less is more.”  That is the case with “Shame.” Letting the audience imagine something is potent rather than tossing it around the screen. There is full frontal nudity and explicit sex. We know that Fassbinder’s character is addicted to sex, but we didn't have to go from encounter to encounter to encounter throughout the film. His facial expressions are the same until the last 20 minutes of the film when he realizes what has happened to him and the people around him. By this time, it is too late to care.
Copyright 2012 Marie Asner