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People tend to think that film critics have the easiest job in the world. After all, our job involves watching a whole lot of movies—something that people generally pay to do for fun, in their spare time. But our job also involves watching the movies that aren’t quite as fun, like the painfully bad ones or movies like Shame—the kind that we need to see, no matter how exhausting they may be to watch.

Director Steve McQueen’s controversial NC-17-rated drama stars Michael Fassbender as Brandon Sullivan, a sex addict whose life has become little more than an endless series of meaningless encounters and porn sites. When he gets an unexpected visit from his little sister, Sissy (Carey Mulligan), though, his balance is thrown off.

Sissy, meanwhile, has problems of her own. The troubled young singer moves from relationship to relationship, looking for love and attention, trying to make some kind of emotional connection.

As Brandon searches for his latest fix, Sissy does the same—and both find themselves feeling more and more dissatisfied.

If you’ve heard anything about Shame, there’s a pretty good chance that you didn’t hear much about the story. You’ve probably heard more about Michael Fassbender’s “performance”—which isn’t really a tribute to his fine acting skills as much as it refers to the fact that he tends to walk around naked from time to time. Though women seem to walk around naked in movies all the time, some might call this a “daring performance.” To be perfectly honest, though, when you look like Fassbender does, there’s absolutely nothing daring about walking around naked. Most men who look like him would probably be perfectly happy walking the streets naked.

The rest of his performance, then, simply requires him to look empty and dissatisfied. Granted, he does justice to “empty and dissatisfied,” but that doesn’t exactly make his performance (or any part of the movie, for that matter) particularly enjoyable to watch. He’s a miserable and almost lifeless character, incapable of any real human connection. And his emptiness makes the film dreary and exhausting.

Though Sissy has the energetic personality that her older brother doesn’t, both characters fall quite flat. The script hints that there’s more to them—that their problems may have something to do with the way they were raised—but the film offers just a suggestion of something deeper, more interesting. It never really explores who these characters are or why they are the way they are. And, as a result, they both come off feeling like the same old damaged characters.

Still, there’s one more reason why you may not have heard much about Shame’s story: because there really isn’t one. Both Brandon and Sissy struggle with their own unique addictions, and that’s about it. And without solid characters to connect to, it’s a long and rather uninteresting road for viewers.

Shame does offer a study of a different kind of addict—one who isn’t surrounded by the usual dealers and needles and dusty mirrors. But the story is pretty much the same. Of course, Fassbender and Mulligan both give credible performances—but, if you’re just interested in catching Fassbender’s “performance,” you can probably save yourself the time and exhaustion and search for the pictures online instead.

DVD Review:
Considering the award season buzz surrounding Shame, you might expect to find a few behind-the-scenes extras included in the film’s DVD release. Unfortunately, though, the special features menu includes just a couple of trailers (for The Descendants and Margaret). So if you were hoping for an in-depth making-of feature (or even a short making-of feature), you’ll be disappointed. Again, for extra coverage, I suppose you’ll just have to take to the Internet.

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