Oscars: On “Shame,” and its NC-17 rating – AWARDS ALLEY

By Sean O’Connell
hollywoodnews.com: Steve McQueen’s frank, demanding “Shame” arrives in theaters on Dec. 2 – at the height of its Oscar campaign – with a dreaded NC-17 rating due to the film’s graphic nudity and cold, unflinching approach to sex. And while one of the film’s stars thinks its ludicrous that “Shame” is held to a different standard than nudity-happy teen sex comedies, the National Association of Theater Owners president John Fithian says he wouldn’t have it any other way.

First, there’s Carey Mulligan, who plays Michael Fassbender’s wayward sister in McQueen’s film and contributes to the NC-17 rating by appearing bottomless in one of the film’s scenes. There’s nothing sexual about her nudity, and Mulligan thinks the rating – which hurts the film’s distribution chances because no one under 17 is allowed to see the film – is unfair.

“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. “And then the minute you show it and it’s not funny, and it’s not sexy, and it’s actually unattractive, then it becomes a problem, which seems so odd.”

But Fithian, speaking to The Wrap following a recent “Shame” screening at AFI Fest, says he applauds McQueen and Fox Searchlight for not editing down what amounts to a masterful vision of sexual addiction, of cravings and destructive behaviors.

“It would have destroyed this film to cut it down to an R rating,” said Fithian. “Too many filmmakers and too many studios do that, and I applaud Steve McQueen and Fox Searchlight for sticking to their guns.

“This is the kind of film that the NC-17 is designed for, and I think we need more bold filmmakers and distributors to make content appropriate for the rating and release it that way.”

Now we need to see if audiences will show up. I hope they do, as “Shame” is one of the year’s finest films. But the NC-17 rating alerts them to what’s in store, because while “Shame” is honest, it’s also uncomfortable, which is a necessary component to McQueen’s vital message.

“Shame” opens in limited release on Dec. 2.

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