Premise: Brandon, a functioning sex addict (Michael Fassbender), finds his whole life thrown out of whack when his troubled younger sister (Carey Mulligan) comes to stay with him.
Behind-the-Scenes: Already infamous for it's oh-so-rare NC-17 (and proud, dammit!) rating. This is director Steve McQueen's second film with Fassbender in the lead - the first was Hunger.
The Good: Fassbender. He's having a stellar year, what with Jane Eyre, X-Men: First Class, and his upcoming turn as Carl Jung in David Cronenberg's A Dangerous Method, but his work in Shame will likely be his best and could very well catapult him onto the short list for Best Actor this year. He is fantastic in the role, showing every facet of his character's addiction - sometimes all in a single, wordless expression. The subject matter is always compelling, and McQueen stages some really impressive uninterrupted single-take sequences. This is a handsome film. The music by Henry Escott that opens and closes the movie is haunting.
The Bad: It doesn't quite add up to a fulfilling whole. The ambiguous ending is fitting, but despite the best efforts of Fassbender and McQueen, the movie can't land the knock-out punch it needs. Mulligan is fine as the emotionally damaged sister, but her character is a walking cliche and the plot twists in store for her can be seen about a mile away. For a movie all about sex, it's not all that sexy.
Oscar-Watch: Fassbender for Best Actor. Possibly McQueen for Director and/or Screenplay. Mulligan for Best Supporting Actress.
Should You See It?: A hard-sell for most folks, but serious movie fans should see it for Fassbender's performance alone.
Rating: ***1/2 out of 5 stars.