Shame - Lilith Likes to Watch Famous February

Title: Shame
Starring: Michael Fassbender, Carey Mulligan
Director: Steve McQueen
Synopsis: Brandon, a thirty-something man living in New York, eludes intimacy with women but feeds his deepest desires with a compulsive addiction to sex. When his younger sister temporarily moves into his apartment, stirring up bitter memories of their shared painful past, Brandon’s life, like his fragile mind, gets out of control. - via
Lilith's Notes: We break into a new year with a not so hard rock bottom.

"We're not bad people, we just come from a bad place."

Welcome back to a fresh new year of Lilith Likes to Watch. Welcome, also to a new Famous February! Last year we explored four of the most famous classic pornos out there. We have trodden that path, so what, you may ask, aligns with that theme now?

Celebrity. Celebrity skin. Famous flesh. This month we're discussing films that have mainstream sex appeal.

We begin with Michael Fassbender's exploration of sex addiction with Shame.

I'm not a porn addict, I can quit whenever I want! Just because I watch at least one adult film fourty-seven weeks out of the year doesn't mean I'm an addict! In truth, if I didn't engage in this exercise in brand development I would just be sitting around reading, writing, playing video games and rewatching Fleabag over and over.

Contrast this to the character of Brandon (played by Michael Fassbender), a successful man living an upper crust life in the big apple. Also, he's a sex addict. Or at least, that's what the film wants us to belive.

It starts out encouraging enough. Brandon's apartment, his complete environment is minimalist and stark. When a sex worker comes to his home, she is all black and electric pink, a beacon in his monochromatic world. Look at me evoking colour theory!

We see a similar theme when Brandon rides the train. There's no one next to him, but as he eyes a woman, she has people around her. I found myself wondering about the lady. Where was she going to and coming from? If she gave in to Brandon's wiles, would she be late for something important? The camera gives us a glance of a wedding ring as Brandon touches her hand.

He follows her off the train, but loses her in the crowd. People that he cannot penetrate.

His sister, Sissy (played by Carey Mulligan), enters his life and seems to be able to easily make connections with others while Brandon cannot.

Sissy, however, has her own demons. She engages in self harming behavior, something Brandon wilfully ignores until it becomes impossible to do so.

This movie is a good example of a slow burn. There is an extended musical sequence where Sissy performs the song New York, New York. The movie sits the viewer down and demands we experience the entire drawn out sequence. Brandon is moved to tears by the performance. Sissy's eyes glitter with some undefined emotion. Kage and I debated on what the point of the scene was. We couldn't come to a consensus.

Brandon stalks around his apartment while Sissy and his boss flirt and fuck, then goes out on a midnight jog to escape the sounds of meaningless connection within his apartment walls.

Brandon then tries to make a connection for himself, and asks a coworker, Marianne,(Played by Nicole Beharie) out on a date. It goes poorly, their views too different.

He tries again with Marianne, they rent a hotel room, but Brandon is unable to perform.

Brandon hits rock bottom in the softest, most vanilla way possible. In desperation to feel something, anything, he trawls through the red light district, to the gay underground and receives a consensual blow job from a man. For free I think.

Then, he has a threesome with two women. Nobody is being hurt, or forced, or choked or hit or tied up. The music is heavenly, the scene bathed in a golden and peach glow. Nobody has track marks or sores. This isn't a how far thou art fallen scene. This is a hallelujah, this is touching God. For some people, this is a regular Friday night. This whole moment missed the mark so hard.

Or maybe I'm just desensitized.

And you can tell me to look at the pain on Brandon's face all you want, and I'll tell you, that's just a o-face.

Throughout his gentle glide towards mild debauchery, Brandon is dodging calls from Sissy until the subway train is stopped due to an accident. He tries to call Sissy, fearing the worst, and hurries to his apartment.

I wish he ran all the way to his apartment, and that it took the same or perhaps a greater amount of time as the jogging scene. It would have made a nice mirror, moment one running from his sister, one running to her, and to show us how achingly far away just a few blocks can be. Instead we get an elevator ride.

Sissy has cut her wrists, and Brandon tries to stop the bleeding as he calls an ambulance.

Sissy lives. Brandon sees subway woman again. Movie ends.

Everyone's performances were stellar. There was something unquestionably Patrick Bateman-esque in Fassbender's portrayal of Brandon, and Sissy had an aura of wounded innocence. Any fault the movie had, very little of it was due to the actors.

I didn't feel he was an addict for one moment in this movie. He was just a lonely regular guy. OK, maybe don't put shitloads of porn on your work laptop. That was dumb of Brandon. But it's not like he's rubbing himself raw and bloody and needs to see a doctor, or even gets himself tested. His apparent addiction does not cause him to act reckless.

If he's gonna fall, make him fall. Make him get spit-roasted by two men. Make him get fisted, or pick up an obvious drug addict who is wasted. Or actually assault someone.

Or maybe Sissy is the only person he's able to connect with. What about that kind of forbidden dalliance?

Maybe it was a different time over a decade ago, or maybe I've become desensitized, but now, this film feels shallow, hollow and puritan. If you really want to see a good example of the effects of addiction, watch Requiem for a Dream.

Best Moment: The moment where Sissy is introduced in the film. She is showering in Brandon's bathroom and he thinks it's an intruder. He catches her in his shower and he's pissed, adrenaline high'd, and horny. You can see the physical restraint keeping him from just taking her.

Worst Moment:Rock bottom. According to this movie rock bottom is getting a blow job from a gay guy in a fancy bar and underground sex club instead of something more desperate and actual rock bottom. Maybe a gloryhole in a public bathroom or something, and he's the one sucking in the hopes to get it in return.


Until next time, my voracious voyeurs. I’m Lilith, and I’m always watching.

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