IT SPEAKS VOLUMES that in his native Britain, Michael Fassbender’s shocking snub by the Academy’s voters has kept more pressing events (including this year’s Sundance Film Festival) from the front pages of the UK media. The X MEN: FIRST CLASS star is, like his US counterpart Ryan Gosling, fast becoming a national treasure. The coming year is expected to be substantial for both.
Here, he reunites with artist cum director, HUNGER’s Steve McQueen. Ditching politics for the soul of the human condition, SHAME is obsessed with addiction. Given its graphic depiction – of sex addiction – an R rating has been roundly slapped on its parts.
Fassbender is Brandon: a smooth corporate animal, roaming the sleek streets of New York, who possesses the ability to seduce on the subway with barely more than a piercing gaze. Bedding women on a nightly basis, Brandon also has an uncontrollable need for self-gratification, via a hefty pile of adult material (both at home and at work). His life is dark, empty and possibly, doomed.
That routine is soon thrown into disarray, though: thanks to the appearance of sister Sissy (Carey Mulligan). She is as lost as he is – potentially, for some vague reason relating to their background – and sings herself around bars (and beds) to barely stay afloat. Her aching, bluesy take on “New York, New York” exposes – and emphasizes – their dark, unspecified secret.
McQueen’s film is a visually arresting work that, while leaving key questions unanswered (specifically, Brandon and Sissy’s past), proves breathtaking in its execution. Fassbender delivers his finest performance yet, with a searing intensity that threatens to boil over into all-out rage (or despair) at any moment. Mulligan is quite exceptional, too, as the sister on a path to self-destruction.
Given the fact that he won for best actor at last year’s Venice Film Festival (where the film premiered, to great acclaim), and that his ‘instrument’ remains the talk of Hollywood, precisely why Fassbender hasn’t received the expected Oscar rubs remains a mystery. Like Gosling, he has another impressive feature up his sleeve (in his case, David Cronenberg’s A DANGEROUS METHOD), proving that this was no fluke. As for the R rating, it means grown-ups will see “a whole lot of Fassbender”, as nature intended. Which is indeed considerable.
Critical Rating: 9/10.
SHAME is in cinemas from Thursday.