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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 Erik Childress

"Finally, A Biopic Worth The Pic"
4 stars

This year’s biopic of Ray Charles had major problems. Yet they’re nothing compared to the ones populated by Kevin Spacey’s upcoming treatment of Bobby Darin. Bill Condon’s Kinsey has the look of a biographical tale but not the by-the-numbers feel that often outlasts our patience for the dryness we’re experiencing. It tells the story of a man, but one consumed with a subject that can provide hours and hours of discussion from biological facts to the controversial taboos that we would rather remain behind closed doors and locked up from our puritanical facade.

Alfred Kinsey (Liam Neeson) as a young man was instantly shamed from those pesky inner feelings that arise in the wake of puberty. His “prig” father (John Lithgow) was also a Sunday school teacher who preached the rhetoric that one-sided religious cultists use to inflict their brand of morality on others. Over the years he specialized in the study of gall wasps, collecting them well beyond your average bug lover in the name of science. It’s not until his students at Indiana University consult with him about their personal sexual concerns that Alfred saw the opportunity to research where no one had dared gone before.

With the help of his relationship with student Clara McMillen (Laura Linney), Kinsey quickly discovered his own problems; being an infant to the sexual experience himself. Perfecting their own stimulation, he was determined to conduct the ultimate research experiment, perfecting a chart of 20 (times ten) questions that would allow subjects to open up on everything they feared to discuss openly.

His staff included Paul Gebhard (Timothy Hutton), a bit of a cad who enjoyed Kinsey’s suggestion of “swapping” a little too much. Wardell Pomeroy (Chris O’Donnell) was dedicated but found it difficult to mask his personal opinions about the interviewee’s revelations. Clyde Martin (Peter Sarsgaard) was a student of Kinsey’s and would soon become his marriage’s own lithmus test, taking both parties to try out new experiences.

The ultimate result, Sexual Behavior in the Human Male, became a sensation; if certainly a powder keg. Finally there was someone making it acceptable to unleash these bottled up feelings. But is the freedom to express every emotional undercurrent at any time the safest thing for a society? There’s something funny in the early stages of talking about sex, until you realize it can be a deadly serious subject. Most liberal-thinking individuals certainly wouldn’t have any problem with opening up orally the discussion, but as we saw with the recent elections, not everyone shares the same ideas and occasionally makes issues more significant than they actually are.

Kinsey is aware of moralities disguised as fact and how restraints have been in place over the years to prevent a deeper wounding. But he was also interested in breaking down those myths over the years put in place by religious authorities and gossipy coffee talk. He told us that it’s not true that men need sex 24-7, a suggestion that still hasn’t penetrated into our psyche even today. If man plus woman equals nothing but baby, then everything else is just a vice and nothing is left for just pleasure. Kinsey’s teachings within the framework of the film are fascinating in a textbook sorta way, but self-admittedly leaves little room for the ultimate expression that sex between two people is supposed to result from.

Neeson gives one of his best performances as Kinsey, balancing his obsessive desire to complete his work with the uncontrollable genetics that emulate his own father. A pair of climactic scenes give him the opportunity to get a bit too “Schindler-ey” with the self-importance of his accomplishments (and sinks the film a bit), but Neeson is still nomination-worthy. Both Linney (who does a great Lithgow impression) and Sarsgaard continue a string of solid work, with the latter doing his part to ease the suffering of penis envy. Lithgow is also extraordinary as the tough-willed father whose ideas may have led to loneliness rather than the Promised Land and William Sadler in just a few minutes of screen time blows us away in both a comical and fearsome role that gives our assumptions to that point a good 180 spin.

Writer/director Bill Condon (Gods and Monsters) wisely equals the focus on both the man and his focus rather than package a greatest hits collection. He’s benefited by us likely knowing less about Alfred Kinsey than the array of celebrities subjugated by encyclopedic treatments. Like any good scientist, he presents the facts, does a little tinkering and waits to see what we think of the results. Only those final scenes about the extent of Kinsey’s aid to the people break the mold of non-impediment. Condon’s visuals such as Kinsey’s window shades or the music he plays remind us of his inquiry forms and just how many questions still remain unanswered about the holiest of holies. If everything leads to or results from the biology of sexual urges anyway, wouldn’t communication, or God forbid, a bit more thinking be the key to solving a quarter of our problems? We might even have some fun along the way. God forbid, right?

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originally posted: 11/19/04 16:16:04
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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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