"Shame" is a difficult film to watch, but the pain it evokes in the viewer has very little to do with why the Steve McQueen-directed drama is making most of its headlines.
In fact, beyond the fact that Michael Fassbender and Carey Mulligan-starrer about sex addiction and personal demons isn't getting its artistic due, very few people will even get to see the film. That's thanks to the MPAA's decision to give it an NC-17 rating. There's too much sex shown for it to be seen by mainstream audiences, the powers-that-be say. Mulligan, on the other hand, thinks that's hypocritical.
“You know, so many of the teen movies will have so much sex and so many people walking around in bikinis and bare-breasted and that all seems to be okay," she tells HitFix.com in a new interview. "And then the minute you show it and its not funny, and it's not sexy, and it's actually unattractive, then it becomes a problem, which seems so odd."
Mulligan's honesty is a bit refreshing, though a different tact than the one taken by the studio that is distributing the film, Fox Searchlight.
"I think NC-17 is a badge of honor, not a scarlet letter," Steve Giulia, co-head of the studio, recently told The Hollywood Reporter. "We believe it is time for the rating to become usable in a serious manner... 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."
Mulligan, for her part, saw the film as a game changer in another way; her preparation, especially physically. Though she has a full frontal nude scene within the first twenty minutes of the film, she says she didn't have to worry about looking "perfect" for the camera.
"I didn't have to worry about what I ate, or how much I drank, and I didn't have to work out," she explains. "She was an alcoholic mess. She didn't have any money to dye her hair. I mean I didn't become an alcoholic, but I didn't have to watch myself. It was so much more exciting to play that character that didn't worry about her appearance in any way. I knew that when I stood up in that bath naked it wasn't about whether I looked good naked or not. It was about who she was."
To get to that point, McQueen said it took a lot of work -- and that it was all worth it.
"I think she's a revelation. You have to get to that point of trust. I think it was harder for Carey," he recently told Indiewire. "Michael knows me. We gained that trust with 'Hunger.' You have to create this environment where people are comfortable. We actually had such a laugh on set. Because we were doing such a tragedy in some ways. But the set was so warm and so friendly and people felt safe. So that they can do what they need to do."
For more from Mulligan, click over to HitFix.