Director: Bill Condon
Cast: Liam Neeson, Laura Linney, Chris O'Donnell, Peter Sarsgaard, Timothy Hutton, John Lithgow, Tim Curry, Oliver Platt, Dylan Baker
MPAA Rating: (for pervasive sexual content, including some graphic images and descriptions)
Running Time: 1:58
Release Date: 11/12/04 (limited)
Review by Mark Dujsik
The one thing that's always thrown me off about Alfred Kinsey's revolutionary sex research was that it was done by a Hoosier. I mean, Indiana is a sexier state than, say, North Dakota, but it still isn't one that immediately comes to mind when you think about all things sexual. Kinsey, Bill Condon's biopic of the zoologist who turned American perception on what people do in their private sexual lives upside-down, portrays a man whose motives are mixed. Innocently, he wants to be able to satisfy his wife; more selfishly, he wants to excise his own personal demons. The result is a man obsessed with research to the point that he eliminates all of the humanity from his perspective on sex. The film does an outstanding job developing this angle on Kinsey's personal story but at the expense of practically every other element of the man it touches. Yet Kinsey has the benefit of Liam Neeson's highly nuanced performance as Kinsey, which helps to fill in many of the blanks and develop what we're presented in detail with a level of complexity.
The film starts with a young Kinsey growing up
under the eye of his father (John Lithgow), a rigid man of high moral and
religious pomposity. We see him as
an Eagle Scout, apparently living up to the expectations of his father's world. He grows up to go on to study biology and psychology, much against his
father's wishes, and eventually goes on to study gall wasps for the way each
generation differs from the last—a trait he hopes is true of human beings as
well. Soon, he teaches biology at
The tone of the first part of the film ventures into the realm of sex comedy, whether it be Clara's befuddlement at the inability of a ruler to measure her husband's "stature" or the expression of shock and amusement students show at a series of photographs showing an up-close look at intercourse (how these passed the MPAA untouched is surprising but encouraging; maybe they aren't as prudish as we thought). It seems an appropriate way to ease us into a discussion of things many are still uncomfortable about seriously discussing in such extensive detail. And detail is something the film certainly isn't lacking. Kinsey is blunt about his advice, and his eventual questionnaire leaves little to the imagination. From this jumping-off point, Condon moves into far more serious terrain. Kinsey's passion for his subject leads him to discover things about himself, including his desire to engage in a relationship with Clyde Martin (Peter Sarsgaard), one of his fellow researchers. This hands-on approach to study is encouraged among the rest of the team (including Chris O'Donnell and Timothy Hutton), and although Kinsey himself is able to distance himself from the research, the same is not always true for them.
This disparity sets Kinsey apart from the rest of
his team and heightens our understanding of his character, but it leaves many
questions open about the other players. We
Copyright © 2004 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.
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