When it comes to making an Oscar push for its movies - there is no more skilled studio in Hollywood than Fox Searchlight. They somehow managed to get "Little Miss Sunshine" nominated for Best Picture when there were just five nominated films - which definitively proved that getting nominated doesn't equate to deserving it. Expect Fox Searchlight to attempt the same thing with "Shame" - a flick that's received an inordinate amount of hype months ahead of its release, largely due to its subject - sex addiction. But as Chuck D put it back in '88: don't believe the hype.
"Shame" is headlined by the Oscar-nom-worthy Michael Fassbender (Inglourious Basterds) as Brandon, the 30-something sexual-addicted centerpiece. Fassbender doesn't just go for it in the movie's slew of NC-17 scenes - he springs off the Manhattan Bridge. We get shots of his genitalia and the multitude of situations the thing finds itself in - this guy is sexually voracious to the point of recklessness and shockingly, it threatens to bring his world down around him. Enter his sister Sissy (an adequate Carey Mulligan), a free-spirited lounge singer looking for a place to well - lounge. She barges right in and gets straight in the way of Brandon's appetite for unending stimulation - sleeping with his boss for starters. The relationship between brother and sister is writer/director Steve McQueen's (no, not the dead one) attempt to put some humanity into the picture - we are supposed to care about Brandon and Sissy's simultaneous teetering on the edge but it washes down with an apathetic taste. As Brandon's sexual cravings get increasingly depraved, "Shame" veers from seedy to erotic but its impact is nothing near what McQueen wishes it to be. The slew of sex is swathed in an utterly sterile environment and while that may be the director's aim - the whole exercise is nothing short of unaffecting.
McQueen began his career as a minimalist filmmaker - his works projected onto the walls of art museums across Britain. Unfortunately for "Shame", McQueen has steadfastly held on to those roots by making a piece of art that doesn't evoke actual emotion. His insistence on insanely long single-shots of scenes is proof of McQueen's skill behind the lens but the practice is often nothing more than a lesson for film students. But McQueen's biggest sin - making a bore of something that had the promise of so much more - an oft staggeringly inert effort.