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Overall Rating

Awesome: 29.03%
Worth A Look49.46%
Average: 10.75%
Pretty Bad: 6.45%
Total Crap: 4.3%

11 reviews, 27 user ratings

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by Scott Weinberg

"A bio-pic so good it doesn't even deserve to be called a bio-pic."
4 stars

SCREENED AT THE 2004 TORONTO FILM FESTIVAL: Most Hollywood biopics tread the exact same ground; only the proper names seem to change. Rare is the biographical film that manages to elucidate a real person's life while effectively encapsulating what that person's cultural impact actually was. Bill Condon's "Kinsey" is one exception to that rule, in that it sheds some light on a fascinating and underappreciated man while delivering a pretty damn entertaining motion picture at the same time.

Alfred Kinsey (1894-1956) was the son of a puritanical papa, and a young man raised to believe that sex was good for precisely one thing -- and 'pleasure' it was not. After proving himself an astute scholar and gifted biologist, Kinsey chanced upon a rather fascinating revelation: American citizens were, for the most part, completely ignorant in regard to human sexuality. Chalk it up to shame or embarrassment or plain old modesty, but most people in mid-'40s America simply didn't talk about their sex lives...let alone ask questions about them.

So like any good scientist, Kinsey dove head-first into this massive abyss of self-imposed ignorance and began poking around. His first step was to introduce a "marriage" class to the students of Indiana University...and the response was overwhelming. The students who might have shown up for a brief bit of titillation were swiftly greeted with a refreshingly frank and exceedingly explicit series of lectures. And this was not the same old never fondle yourself/sex is dirty schpiel generally espoused in health and hygiene course. Kinsey was addressing uncomfortable issues, but ones that hit close to home for just about anyone close enough to listen in.

Shaking off his opponents' initial skepticism by treating human sexuality with a strictly biological approach, Dr. Kinsey soon set his sights on a project of epic proportions: the first-ever nationwide study on the habits of human sexual behavior. To this end he enlisted a trio of young graduate students to help him out...and the rest is history. His 1948 book Sexual Behavior in the Human Male was a worldwide sensation. By the time Kinsey's research on the female companion piece was finished in 1953, the doctor was beset with problems including bankruptcy and accusations of communism.

I learned all of this from Bill Condon's new movie; prior to this morning all I knew of Alfred Kinsey was that he wrote a few books about sex. And what's most exciting about this movie (well, aside from the fact that it's all about sex!) is that it's as informative and enlightening as it is effortlessly entertaining. This is not some puff-piece biopic (and this festival's already offered a few of those), but a crafty and insightful character study of a non-fiction hero. By the time the film ends, you'll have gained a lot of respect for this generally forgotten man.

In the title role, Liam Neeson is nothing short of superb. Heck, it's Liam Neeson! His lesser performances are few and far between; his portrayal of Dr. Kinsey is warm-hearted and eccentric, dedicated and a little...weird. As the doctor's initially mousy, eventually liberated wife, Laura Linney adds yet another fantastic performance to her resume. And Condon has attracted a supporting cast that's nothing short of marvelous: Peter Sarsgaard, Timothy Hutton, Oliver Platt, John Lithgow, Dylan Baker, Tim Curry...heck, even the generally banal Chris O'Donnell contributes some excellent work! (And keep your eyes peeled for a small performance from an actress I consider to be a true up-and-comer: the always-great Julianne Nicholson.) Meanwhile, Bill Sadler pops up with one of the finest single-scene performances I've ever seen. He's both oddly sympathetic and endlessly creepy at the same time.

The movie may pique your interest solely because of the sexy subject matter, but this is no leering and licentious little confection. As a matter of fact, there's barely any sex and next to zero in the nudity department (although Mr. Sarsgaard does manage to join the on-screen sausage club), but "Kinsey" still packs a delicious little punch. In an era when every TV channel is overladen with heaving hooters and jiggling butt-cheeks, this film is a quaint, warm, compelling, and heartfelt biography. If Dr. Kinsey were alive to see just how prevalent human sexuality has become in our culture, he might feel a small pang of disappointment at how low we've sunk. But it's tough not to admire a guy who sought to remedy such a huge and unacceptable chunk of human ignorance, and Bill Condon is to be commended for his well-conceived and wholly entertaining tribute to the unjustly dismissed Dr. Kinsey.

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originally posted: 09/12/04 14:23:10
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Chicago Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Chicago Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Starz Denver Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Starz Denver Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Toronto Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Toronto Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Mill Valley Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Mill Valley Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

11/03/08 Shaun Wallner Interesting Movie! 4 stars
7/28/07 McGregger TERRIBLE. The acting, script, plot, casting. Bad from top to bottom. 1 stars
7/25/05 SL On-screen sausage due to gay director, but otherwise unecessary 3 stars
6/29/05 BoyInTheDesignerBubble Peter Sarsgaard naked. 5 stars from me! 5 stars
6/25/05 Mr Fluffy Apparently, Liam Neeson has a rather huge cock. So he tells me. 4 stars
3/31/05 DavidOz V good, suddenly knowing the context made the science live 5 stars
3/27/05 Victor Toledo I liked this film. It did what it set out to do. 5 stars
3/11/05 Nick Boyd Great screenplay and very good acting 5 stars
2/11/05 Liam Neeson? I thought that was Ralph Finnes!! Sex and the shitty. 3 stars
1/30/05 Casey Tells okay 3 stars
1/29/05 buddy garrett Neeson's performance is good but there is nothing else. 3 stars
1/14/05 Neil Pretty good 4 stars
12/31/04 Landshark Breeding for sophisticates beats sex for dummies any day 4 stars
12/06/04 Travis Bickle Movie was a breath of fresh air compared to most movies lately. Not masterpiece but damn... 4 stars
12/05/04 Doreen finally an intelligent movie emerges out of the Hollywood junk 5 stars
12/04/04 Titus Really quite good, but nothing really stellar. 4 stars
11/22/04 Mack Mangham An Oscar for Neeson coming this way. Great movie, great acting 5 stars
11/20/04 Desperado a pervert huh, guess you voted for Bush 5 stars
11/17/04 Naka Oh, shut the hell up Gray. 5 stars
11/11/04 Graham Dr. Reisman is one of the biggest frauds of the past 50 years, and her allegations are bunk 5 stars
11/11/04 Kelly Glorify a PERVERT? No thanks. 1 stars
11/04/04 MMM Shouldn't opinions be based on stellar performances, rather than subject matter? 4 stars
10/31/04 Hugo Haas Smug and campy failure, second half a complete mess 1 stars
10/25/04 Sinick LIES! Kinsey was a child molester & rapist! Read about it from Dr. Reisman or Dr. Makow 1 stars
9/15/04 MM Gonna get Oscar noms for sure 4 stars
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  12-Nov-2004 (R)
  DVD: 17-May-2005



Directed by
  Bill Condon

Written by
  Bill Condon

  Liam Neeson
  Laura Linney
  Peter Sarsgaard
  Chris O'Donnell
  Oliver Platt
  Timothy Hutton

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