Kevin Carr’s Weekly Report Card: December 2, 2011

This week, Fat Guy Kevin Carr walks around his apartment naked, rents out hookers of various shapes and sizes then tries to pick up married women on a subway. He figures if it’s good enough for Michael Fassbender in Steve McQueen’s Shame, then it’s good enough for anyone. Of course, this leads Kevin to spending most of the rest of the day weeping in his birthday suit. Shaking off the humiliation, he decides to take in some culture and give Ralph Fiennes’ Coriolanus a gander, being one of them Shakespeare pictures and all. Unfortunately, he never stops giggling about the name of the movie long enough to decipher all of the fancy Elizabethan language, and Kevin ends up weeping again, curled up naked in his shower.

Want to hear what Kevin has to say on the Fat Guys at the Movies podcast? Click here to listen as Kevin chats with Jared Zimney from Movies in the Mancave about no movies opening in wide release this week.

Studio:Fox Searchlight

Rated: NC-17 for some explicit sexual content

Starring: Michael Fassbender, Carey Mulligan, James Badge Dale, Nicole Beharie and Hannah Ware

Directed by: Steve McQueen

What it’s about: Michael Fassbender plays a New Yorker who is struggling with an ongoing sex addiction. As his obsession creeps into his professional and personal life, he finds himself getting into darker circumstances, which threaten his job and his family.

What I liked: I’ve never been known as a fan of die-hard arthouse cinema, and for the most part I even find the term “artist” to be pretentious and overused. However, I occasionally come across a film that fit squarely into this category and yet I really do enjoy. Shame is one of those films.

The fact that this film can be as sexually explicit as it is and not actually be arousing or erotic is a testament to the direction and the performance. We see true struggle going on with the main characters, and Fassbender shows some real acting chops in the subtlety of his moments. He shows other things, and that will be a draw for some, but even then it’s framed in the humiliation and emotional distress of the moment.

Like Jessica Chastain, Fassbender is in danger of being overexposed this year (no pun intended), but he’s give us a solid range of work in 2011. From a comic book hero to Carl Jung, Fassbender continues to dominate the acting field of cinema both large and small. His performance in Shame is both understated and in-your-face.

Director Steve McQueen handles the subject of sexual addiction with care and realism. It’s not made into a joke, nor is it fetishized as lesser directors might be tempted to do. Instead, the film shows a man wrapped in his own unpleasurable desires that cannot escape, no matter what damage is done to the people around him.

What I didn’t: As powerful and well made as Shame is, there are plenty of moments where it threatens to overstay its welcome. There are two scenes in particular where McQueen spends a little too much time with the subjects on screen. Not being well versed in McQueen’s work, I’ve been told this is part of his style, and that’s fine. I just found the moments where we get more intimate in the action (or non-action) to be more compelling than the fly-on-the-wall moments.

Who is gonna like this movie: Arthouse cinephiles who don’t mind some raw NC-17 content.

Grade: A

Studio:The Weinstein Company

Rated: R for some bloody violence

Starring: Gerard Butler, Ralph Fiennes, Jessica Chastain, Brian Cox and Vanessa Redgrave

Directed by: Ralph Fiennes

What it’s about: Ralph Fiennes directs himself and Gerard Butler in a modernized adaptation of one of Shakespeare’s lesser-known plays. Fiennes plays a no-nonsense military hero who is abandoned by the politicians, then later forms an unstable alliance with his bitter enemy on the battlefield.

What I liked: I’ll admit that I am not well-versed in Shakespeare. I’ve seen the big performances (mostly in movie form, but sometimes in live productions), such as Romeo & Juliet, Hamlet, and A Midsummer’s Night Dream. But his lesser-known works are not at all part of my framework. However, I respect any filmmaker who brings one of his plays to the big screen in a unique format.

Like Julie Taymor’s stab at The Tempest recently, Ralph Fiennes attempts a different setting for the Roman tragedy of Coriolanus. The time and place is modernized to fit into the political turmoil of today’s world, with politicians pulling the strings of the military and the populace forsaking their would-be heroes. This was a logical choice for Fiennes as war is universal in subject for all civilizations. But just because it’s an easy, logical choice doesn’t mean it isn’t a great way to make a connection.

The parallels to today’s world are strong here, and the performances are solid, particularly from Fiennes (who does a fine job directing himself) and Gerard Butler as his foil. Vanessa Redgrave also gives a rousing performance as Coriolanus’ mother, and Brian Cox plays the smarmy politician to a tee.

What I didn’t: As relevant as Coriolanus is to the modern world and as good as the performances are, the film doesn’t quite make the powerful point it should. For me, it came down to two major problems. First, this story is not well known, so I was playing catch-up a bit. I don’t know the Roman history behind it, so things are confusing, especially set against today’s backdrop (even with the names of the countries appropriately changed).

The other problem is the Shakespearean language. This obviously wasn’t a problem when these stories were first performed, but there’s a certain learning curve that needs to happen as I watch an adapted work of Shakespeare. I never caught the groove of the dialogue as I have with the other works. I’d be tempted to say this is because it’s not as sharply written as Romeo & Juliet or Hamlet, for instance. But it also (and most likely) is my fault for not knowing the subject matter to begin with.

So like Anonymouse, the other Shakespeare-related film out at the end of 2011, this is made more for the fan of the bard rather than the novice who grew up with a steady diet of Star Wars films, 80s action flicks and Three’s Company reruns.

Who is gonna like this movie: Shakespeare fans, particular ones already familiar with the original play.

Grade: C+

Kevin Carr crawled from the primordial ooze in the early 1970s. He grew up watching movies to the point of irritation for his friends and was a font of useless movie knowledge until he decided to put that knowledge to good use. Now, Kevin is a nationally syndicated critic, heard on dozens of radio stations around the country, and his reviews appear in a variety of online outlets. Kevin is also a proud member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association (BFCA), the Online Film Critics Society (OFCS), and the Central Ohio Film Critics Association (COFCA).

Read More from Kevin Carr
Get Film School Rejects in your email. All the cool kids are doing it:
Previous Article
Next Article
Reject Nation
Leave a comment
Comment Policy: No hate speech allowed. If you must argue, please debate intelligently. Comments containing selected keywords or outbound links will be put into moderation to help prevent spam. Film School Rejects reserves the right to delete comments and ban anyone who doesn't follow the rules. We also reserve the right to modify any curse words in your comments and make you look like an idiot. Thank You!