I first fell in love Michael Fassbender when I saw him in Hunger. About Bobby Sands of the IRA, Hunger captured his fight for justice for not only himself but also for his underdog country. The performance that Michael Fassbender pulls off is breathtaking in its ability to suck you into his troubles. It is of course helped by the wonderful direction of the newcomer filmmaker, Steve McQueen. Mr. McQueen made even poop smeared on walls look amazing. I was pumped to hear that they were collaborating again. But then I heard the story line and I read the mixed reviews and I was less than impressed. So I have waited this long (it came out in 2011) to see it and man I was glad I didn’t waste the twenty bucks I spend seeing a film in the theater on this film.
In the book, Paying for it, Chester Brown explains his fascination with prostitutes and his inability to have a stable relationship. He brings the addiction to the forefront and tells the ugly truth about his personal life. Anything can become an addiction and sex is quite clearly a major one for a lot of people. And yet the topic rarely comes up in our sex obsessed world. That is why Shame garnered so much press when it was made (that and Michael Fassbender’s penis). People were talking about how the film put a human face on the disease and treated it like a real problem. And yet the film missed the whole point of the problem. There was no physical or emotional weight put on the character or the subject. Everything just looked great. His apartment, his office, his girls that he mates with, everything was polished to the point of unrelatability. Nobody has the life Michael Fassbender’s character has. It is not believable in the slightest bit. I think it is because Michael Fassbender represents an idea more than a character. Your characters can be the physical representation of an abstract idea, but it still has to seem real in your universe in order for it to work. He just seems like an unfeeling alien that was put on Earth to have this tidy little problem. The problem that does not inhibit him in any way (besides getting beaten up once).
I am angry at this film because it should have been great. The cinematography is fantastic, the acting good and the score is really impressive. But all of these things cannot add up to a good picture without a good idea. This is the classic example of not being able to polish a turd (one of my favorite expressions). Without a good idea, a good script, then everything you layer on top of it doesn’t matter. Even it is impressive cinematography, if the story doesn’t grab you then it has just been wasted. If you want to explore this addiction through a real work of art, I would suggest Chester Brown’s graphic novels. He understands this issue to a degree that Steve McQueen and Michael Fassbender will never understand it. That is just the harsh truth.