Is 'Shame' the 'Black Swan' of 2011?
Short answer to that scintillating headline: No way! However, these two films have more in common than you might initially think -- and not just because they both come from the same studio (Fox Searchlight). Ahead, five reasons the Steve McQueen-directed sex-addiction drama ''Shame'' is the ''Black Swan'' of the 2011 gaggle.
1. Outstanding lead performances in not-so-outstanding movies
As awards season dragged on at the end of 2010 and into this year, the buzz on ''Black Swan'' went from instant classic to camp classic. The Darren Aronofsky-directed film -- specifically the cuckoo bananas third act -- was more arch and hysterical than most awards-bait, this despite a committed performance from Natalie Portman, who seemed to rise above the fray even while wallowing in ''Black Swan''s' ridiculousness. ''Shame'' isn't nearly as silly as ''Black Swan'' -- quite the opposite, it's so ... damn ... serious -- but it's similarly flawed. As Brandon, the sex addicted New Yorker at ''Shame's'' center, Michael Fassbender is utterly brilliant, but the film somewhat lets him down with a bit too much repetition and a not-as-shocking-as-it-wants-to-be third act. There is a lot to like in ''Shame,'' but it's a tough movie to love.
2. Same-sex make-out sessions
At least part of the reason ''Black Swan'' grossed $329 million worldwide? That kiss between Natalie Portman and Mila Kunis! ''Shame'' features a similarly bracing same-sex liplock (it's a spoiler, so you'll get no more than that), though considering the participants and the film's NC-17 rating, it's doubtful that will help the bottom line.
3. New York City subways fresh out of 'Warriors'
Pet peeve time: New York City subways no longer look like they did in ''The Warriors,'' plastered with graffiti. Which is what makes movies like ''Shame'' and ''Black Swan'' (and television shows like ''2 Broke Girls'') so infuriating. When Brandon is riding the subway, the window behind him is covered with scribble (see above). As someone who takes that train line almost every day (it's the N and R line), I can attest that it isn't nearly as messy. This isn't 1981, ''Shame''! Come on now.
4. Up and coming ingenues playing second-fiddle In ''Black Swan,'' Mila Kunis never really gets a chance to shine with Portman devouring the spotlight; in ''Shame,'' Carey Mulligan is dealt a similar hand, though she does have one show-stopping moment: a downcast version of "New York, New York" that breaks Brandon's heart, and probably yours too.
Obviously and all, but still: ''Shame'' is all about sex addiction and how it can eat away at a person's soul. ''Black Swan'' is about an addiction to perfection, one compounded by the fact that Portman's Nina is certifiably crazy. (Still, no one cuts their fingernails like Nina unless they have some deep-rooted perfectionist issues.) Perhaps she and Brandon would make a great couple -- if it wasn't for that pesky mortal wound at the end of ''Black Swan.''