When your lead, in this case Michael Fassbender, repeatedly shows his genitals and people use phrases like "dungeon sex" in talking about your film, it's a safe bet that the MPAA is gonna hit you with an NC -17. Sure enough...
The MPAA's decision to give "Shame," starring Fassbender as a sex addict whose life is thrown into turmoil by a too-long visit by his sister, Carey Mulligan, an NC-17 rating came down yesterday. It comes as a surprise to no one who's seen the film, as well as most of us who haven't yet.
"I think NC-17 is a badge of honor, not a scarlet letter. We believe it is time for the rating to become usable in a serious manner," Searchlight president Steve Gilula told The Hollywood Reporter. "The sheer talent of the actors and the vision of the filmmaker are extraordinary. It's not a film that everyone will take easily, but it certainly breaks through the clutter and is distinctive and original. It's a game changer."
It's to director Steve McQueen's credit that when he was shopping this film to distributors he made it clear that he wouldn't allow them to cut a single frame, as he clearly knew what the ratings board would think of his film. And hats off to Fox Searchlight for having the courage to buy it, as the NC-17 is typically seen as a box-office death sentence.
We have to admit there's a small part of this that wishes Weinstein had bought the rights to "Shame" so we could enjoy his self-righteous histrionics as he appealed the rating.