Wednesday, December 7, 2011

For Your Consideration

Best Supporting Actress:
Carey Mulligan Shame
I wanna wake up in a city that doesn't sleep...

While much is being said about the NC-17 rating, the graphic sex scenes, and the stars' full frontal nudity, not enough is being said about the career changing performance given by, Carey Mulligan. 
Miss Mulligan came to the attention of many in her Oscar nominated performance as the innocent school girl, Jenny, coming of age in An Education. She immediately established herself as an English Rose. You know the type. Beautiful, fresh, intelligent, and proper. She followed her break-out role with the prerequisite big-budget girlfriend role in Wall Street 2. And returned to form in another good performance in Never Let Me Go. But, nothing she has done on film previously would prepare you for her blistering turn in Shame.
She arrives about a half hour into the film and immediately gives the film a jolt of energy. Up until then we have been following her brother, Brandon (Michael Fassbender), on his cool, rather distant journey through a sexual addiction. Mulligan bursts on the scene exposing herself, literally, with a vulnerability and humanness that the film has been lacking. Her Sissy is the emotional heart of the film. She is the catalyst for the audience to feel the journey these characters are going through.
Sissy is of the Sally Bowles mode. A fun loving singer that lives for the moment and is very much the little girl lost. It's a character that in the wrong hands can very quickly turn one-dimensional. But, Mulligan makes it her own giving this reckless woman layers of complexity. Sissy and Brandon have an odd relationship. They don't bat an eye at being nude together or emotionally ripping each other apart. There are many questions about how each of them arrived at this place in their lives. It's to the actors' credit that a back story is never revealed. It lives in the moments as anyone's history unknowingly shapes their lives.
We're family. We're meant to look after each other
The film isn't afraid to take it's time. There are many single shot scenes in which the camera lingers, daring you to look away. In a scene in which the siblings have a discussion, they are shot from behind with no cuts. Even though the entire conversation is done in profile we don't miss a thing. He, all icy reserve and she, bleeding heart on her sleeve, cut to the heart of what it means to be family. Wanting to stand on your own, but knowing that family is always there.

And in perhaps the film's best scene, the camera, in extreme close-up, focuses on Sissy giving the saddest performance of the song, 'New York, New York', that you've ever heard. With her voice and a furlong look, Mulligan gives the song a raw intensity. She acts through the song, giving the moment a glimpse into her character's fragility. The camera briefly cuts away to show that the song has brought a tear to Brandon's eye, momentarily melting his hard soul. As an audience member, it's difficult to invest in a character who is so closed off. If the film succeeds at all on an emotional level it is due to the performance of Carey Mulligan.

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