I’m feeling a little bad for Carey. After seeing Shame, all the fuss seemed to be about her co-star Michael Fassbender baring his junk, swinging the thing like a patrolman with a billy club.
But what about Carey? What about her needs? What about her risks?
Mulligan’s character makes her entrance stark naked, in a shower stall, bare-breasted (they’re perky!), bottle-blond hair soaked to reveal dark roots, darkish pubic hair. This is not your BBC Mulligan, nor the mother on the pedestal of Drive. Not only does she dress and sing like Marilyn Monroe, she has that bruised blond Bus Stop attitude, the beauty of the butterfly about to be stomped by the steel-toed boot of male brutishness.
Full-frontal nudity is a rite of passage for actresses. And so Mulligan’s Sissy enters the frame, like brother Brandon, naked as birth, but not nearly so daring.
And, yet, Sissy may as well be clothed for all that is revealed about her character, despite her physical nudity, her painfully slow rendition of “New York, New York,” and what definitely amounts to a genuine and wrenching performance. Again, it’s the Jessica Rabbit problem: “she’s not bad; she’s just drawn that way.”
Mulligan’s abused, possibly incestuous, self-mutilating sister has a character arc that goes from bad to worse. She’s just a plot punching bag. While she shares the screen with Fassbender’s Brandon, it’s her impact on him that commands director Steve McQueen’s full attention, as if he were the parent who only has enough love for one child.
And, stripped bare, what’s Brandon’s takeaway? To quote Babs, “people, people who need people, are the luckiest people in the world.”