ByScott Pierce, writer at
Yell at me on Twitter: @gingerscott. Managing Editor at Moviepilot.
Scott Pierce

Let's be honest. We've all got nicknames for the effortlessly talented . I like to call him Michael Fassbendy and calls him Fassy B, apparently. This is the first of many unnecessary revelations in Franco's review of director 's triumphant, transcendent 12 Years A Slave. It's all a little confusing, but par for the course coming from today's "Renaissance Man" - artist, actor, and scholar.

What's sublimely bizarre about the review is how it focuses on Fassbender's ruthless character, a brutal slave owner, and avoids mentioning who plays Solomon Northrup, the freeborn black man who's abducted and sold into the horrendous institution. He explains:

This is Fassbender's film. I don't say that because the other actors don't give equally strong performances; it has less to do with the work by the actors and more to do with the way the characters are framed and the kind of material they are given to perform. (As a contrast watch Fassbender in The Councilor [sic] and see him in a passive role. He didn't suddenly turn into a lesser actor—he filmed it immediately after Twelve Years a Slave—but he was given a part that doesn't take action, he just sits and suffers.) If this is, in fact, a movie about Epps the slave owner as much as Northup the slave, what does that mean for the audience? We get to watch an incredible actor behave like a monster and we like it, we love it, because he is so charming, and handsome. We like watching humans get beaten, and if such beatings are framed in the right way, in this case, in an important film about American history, then we will lap up all that brutality and want more. I know I did. I watched it two nights in a row.

I'm wondering if Franco and I saw the same movie. Sure, Fassbendy is highly charming and handsome in real life, but his character Epps is one of the most horrific characters I've ever seen on screen. The way he acted and the way that he expressed his own internal dilemmas was horrifying.

But it doesn't stop there. Where the review really took a turn into the bizarre was when Franco expressed his disgust for McQueen's Shame. Specifically, he disagreed with the scene in which Michael Fassbender's character, Brandon, visits a gay sex club. He says:

He wasn’t such an addict in my opinion, though. I mean, what did he do? Watch porn and screw a handful of people a week? I could point to quite a few folks who do that. And that scene where he’s at his lowest point and wants to fuck and goes into a gay club, and it’s depicted like the seventh level of hell... I mean, it goes back to the horrible representations of gays in the 70s, where the gay club is meant to signify everything dark and depraved. Then the guy gets a minor blowjob, from, Oh no, a man! The horror!

I understand what Franco is trying to say, but at the same time I'm wondering if we saw the same movie. Sure, there's nothing wrong with someone who wants to "watch porn and screen a handful of people a week," but Fassbender's character wasn't doing that to have fun. He was incapable of having legitimate, emotional connections with people. The scene in the gay sex club isn't disturbing in that it's a gay sex club, it's disturbing because Fassbender's character presumably identities as straight. This wasn't someone who just wanted to have fun being single. This was someone who was truly hurt and didn't know how to connect.


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