Reviewed Mar 01, 2012
Reid Volk’s review:
Probably the best portrait of addiction that I have ever seen. Toward the beginning of the film, Brandon's boss attributes his success to his attention to detail. I immediately thought of director Steve McQueen as his prowess in crafting a stunning visual presentation, getting the most out of his already capable actors, and creating characters that are cold & distant yet able to be understood, allows him to take a film regarding sexual addiction and make it a tale even the most chaste of people can relate to. He also doesn't beat the viewer over the head with Brandon's addiction like so many other films, namely Requiem for a Dream, do. In the beginning, we see Brandon's compulsion to pleasure himself even at his place of work. McQueen hints at these actions later by merely showing us a delayed shot of the bathroom door. It is tastefully done and the impact is still there without repeating the scene in order to shock the audience.
As good as McQueen's vision really is, Fassbender gives a finely-tuned and inspiringly nuanced performance that elevates the already superb material. From the quiet intensity on the subway to what I will refer to as his "blow-out" scene towards the end, his face communicates so much with the smallest of gestures and conveys more in one minute than most actors are capable of in an entire film. The performance is juxtaposed well with Mulligan's character who is in many ways the antithesis of Brandon, but still yearning to start over in her own way.
As stated before, it is a movie about sexual addiction. While it does feature some graphic scenes, it is surprisingly reserved. I didn't find any moments to be gratuitous and when we do see a lot of skin, little gratification is to be derived from these moments. Like Brandon, we experience the compulsion, not the pleasure.
There is much to say about this film and I fear that I could go on ad-nauseam. It certainly isn't a film for everyone. But if you can brave taking a long cold look in the mirror, even if your life is nothing like Brandons, I feel you can't walk away not getting a better understanding addiction and yourself in the process.