"Lost in “New York, New York”"
What You Need To Know:
SHAME is a pornographic portrait of a sex addict. Brandon is a mid-level executive in New York City. As the movie sets up his addiction to anonymous sex and Internet pornography, his younger sister suddenly shows up asking to stay for a few days. Brandon takes his boss, David, to see his sister, Sissy, sing very slowly and plaintively at a post nightclub. Later, he stands by as David and Sissy use his bedroom. An interrupted rendezvous with a beautiful black female from work ends up with Brandon seeking out more anonymous sex with three prostitutes and someone at a pornographic gay nightspot.
SHAME clearly shows sexual addiction creates unhappiness, pain, shame, and isolation. It’s a proctologist’s view, however, so it contains abundant foul language, graphic sex scenes, and explicit shots of full nudity, including homosexual behavior. Though Brandon at one point cries out to God in the wake of a near-fatal tragedy, SHAME is an abhorrent, degrading, humanist movie. It’s often boring and self-indulgent, as well as pornographic. SHAME is being touted as a “masterful,” “exquisite” portrayal of a troubled soul, but this hyperbole can’t hide its offensive, superficial, heavy-handed qualities.
(HH, HoHoHo, B, LLL, VVV, SSS, NNN, AA, DD, MMM) Strong humanist worldview showing the empty, troubled, shameful life of a sex addict, with very strong male and female homosexual scenes, mitigated slightly by some moral points that include protagonist trashes his porn collection and finally helps his troubled sister and then cries out to God afterwards in the personal climax of the final act, but movie leaves resolution of this story open ended as protagonist sees married woman on subway smile at him suggestively in the final scene, so viewers never really know whether man really will start dealing with his lust, much less turn to God through Jesus Christ; at least 68 mostly strong obscenities, two strong profanities, and three light profanities, plus some lewd sex talk in one scene; very strong bloody scene as man discovers bloody suicide victim and knife on bathroom floor and he tries to staunch the bleeding as he dials 911 and woman’s boyfriend punches, kicks, and spits on protagonist outside bar after protagonist talked lewdly about woman, plus man holds sister down while screaming at her when she discovers him abusing himself in the bathroom and man punches cabinet in anger; extreme sexual content includes scenes of depicted fornication and sodomy, depicted homosexual sex as man enters seedy and pornographic gay bar, depicted lesbian sex with man in bed with two women, implied homosexual sex, implied adultery, semi-nude couple cavorts in bed, depicted self-abuse, depicted naked kissing and licking, Internet porn woman touches herself, married woman flirts with man on subway train, and lewd sex talk in one scene; shots of full male and female nudity, shots of upper and rear female nudity, rear male nudity, upper male nudity; alcohols use and drunkenness; smoking and man snorts cocaine in one shot; and, protagonist’s troubled sister is starved for affection from him, sister used to cut her arm, protagonist has shouting arguments with sister, married man tries to pick up woman in bar, protagonist insults man in bar, man has been using office computer to look at Internet porn, people open closed bathroom doors, and man knocks marriage.
SHAME is a pornographic portrait of a troubled sex addict who indulges in one day of orgiastic behavior that ends in a narrow escape from tragedy and leaves him crying out to God. The last scene after that, however, is open ended, so movie refuses to show whether the sex addict will change his life, even though earlier he threw out his porn collection.
Set in New York City, the movie opens on Brandon, a thirtysomething professional, staring at the ceiling before getting up from bed. A naked Brandon wanders around his apartment. The phone rings and a woman’s voice pleads for him to pick up, but Brandon is too busy masturbating in his shower. Later, it’s revealed that the woman is his troubled sister Sissy.
Cut to Brandon staring expressionless at a clearly married woman making eyes at him and smiling. The movie then shows Brandon greeting a prostitute coming into his apartment and later visiting an Internet porn site, which isn’t shown. Then, when he returns home from work one day, he comes home to find a record playing in the living room. He gets a baseball bat and opens the closed bathroom door, where his sister is coming out of the shower. Apparently, he forgot that he gave Sissy a key to his place. She asks him to stay at his place for a few days. Reluctantly, Brandon agrees.
Brandon overhears Sissy having problems on her cellphone with some man she’s after, but he acts as if he doesn’t care. Later, she asks him to come see her sing at a local nightclub. Brandon takes his boss, David, to the club, where Sissy performs a painstakingly slow, plaintive rendition of “New York, New York,” the jaunty song made famous by Liza Minelli and Frank Sinatra. It’s clear during her performance that Sissy is a very hurting, troubled person.
Then, after the performance, Brandon’s boss starts seducing Sissy. Not knowing what to do about it, Brandon allows them to go to his apartment and use his bedroom. Even so, this behavior upsets Brandon. To get rid of his anger, he goes jogging, but mentions nothing to his boss the next day, even though the movie reveals that the boss actually is married with kids.
Eventually, Brandon has a couple major arguments with his sister. During one, he complains that Sissy called up his boss to get together with him again. [SPOILERS FOLLOW] Brandon also finds out Sissy has discovered the porn site Brandon has been visiting on his home laptop computer. It is after this that Brandon suddenly decides to trash all his porn collection, including his home laptop.
In the middle of this, Brandon has a date with a beautiful black worker in his office, Marianne. During their first date, Brandon reveals that the longest relationship he’s had is four months. He also tells Marianne he doesn’t see the point in getting married. Then, after he dumps his home porn collection, he convinces Marianne to get a room with him at one of New York’s gorgeous ocean view hotels. When it comes time to perform, however, Brandon can’t, and Marianne leaves.
At this point, Brandon decides to have an all-day sex orgy, starting with a prostitute. He ends up getting beat up by a man in a bar after he makes very crude passes at the man’s girlfriend, going to a pornographic gay bar and having anonymous gay sex, and ending up in bed with two other female prostitutes. It’s at the end of this last orgy that a long close-up of his face shows that David’s sex life is causing him more pain than pleasure.
[SPOILER ALERT] During these orgies, Brandon gets a couple urgent cellphone calls from his sister asking for help, but he ignores them. A near tragedy results, leaving Brandon crying out to God in the middle of the street. Nothing further happens, however, and the last scene shows Brandon on a subway train staring expressionless again at the married woman he saw in the opening.
The Christian movie FIREPROOF proved that you could deal tastefully with the subject of Internet porn and sexual addiction without being graphic, and (at the same time) give moviegoers an inspiring, uplifting, godly spiritual message pointing to Jesus Christ, our Divine Lord and Savior. Until a couple all too brief moments in the third act, SHAME is just depressing and gross. In fact, even practically all the non-sexual scenes are lackluster or boring. For instance, there’s a very long tracking shot of Brandon just jogging down city streets after he gets upset that Sissy and his boss are carousing in his bedroom. The point of this ridiculous shot is made in a few seconds, so why keep shooting it? The same thing occurs when Sissy gives her painstakingly slow rendition of the usually rousing song “New York, New York.” The irony of the song for this troubled woman becomes very apparent after only a few seconds, but the slow rendition goes on for a very long time. Of course, this is just the kind of pretentious, self-indulgent filmmaking moviegoers encounter all too often in independent, artsy dramas like SHAME.
Thus, despite some moments of high drama and aching personal breakdowns, SHAME keeps gravitating toward excess of all kinds. Naturally, the worst excess comes toward the end when Brandon indulges himself in all kinds of sexual behavior. It isn’t until the very end of this montage [SPOILER ALERT] that the director slams viewers over the head with a final shot showing that Brandon is finding more pain than pleasure in his final lengthy, hardcore sexual activities with two prostitutes.
SHAME clearly shows that sexual addiction leads to unhappiness, pain, shame, and isolation. The movie is, however, a proctologist’s view of the subject, so it contains abundant foul language, graphic sex scenes, and explicit shots of full nudity, plus explicit homosexual behavior. As such, it offers mostly a humanist approach where God is only mentioned once in a positive context. Rated NC-17, the equivalent of an X rating, SHAME is an abhorrent, degrading experience that, despite its tacked-on warnings against sexual addiction, co-dependency, and suicidal behavior, still could lead many impressionable viewers down those kinds of perverted paths.
SHAME is being touted as a “masterful” and even “exquisite” portrayal of a troubled soul, but this hyperbole can’t hide the offensive, outrageous, heavy-handed, superficial quality of its graphic, gratuitous, indulgent elements.