Written and Directed
by Bill Condon
Running Time: 1:58
for pervasive sexual content,
including some graphic images and descriptions.
Kinsey was a decent movie that tells the life of noted sex researcher Alfred Kinsey, but it wasn't as well rounded as it could have been.
Alfred Kinsey grew up in a religious family, where his father preached against the evils of sex. Kinsey grew up to rebel against his father, and went on to study, and teach about, a certain type of bug. While teaching a class, he meets the woman who would soon be his wife, Clara McMillen. She brings out a side of him that Kinsey had repressed because of his father. But the first time they have sex, they have, issues, so they go see a doctor. Kinsey realizes suddenly that a lot of people have these same problems, but have no one to talk to. So he decides to do the most in-depth research ever done on the subject, interviewing hundreds and thousands of men and women about their sex lives. Along with his team of interviewers, including Clyde Martin, Wardell Pomeroy and Paul Gebhard, Kinsey works for years to bring his work to the forefront of society. Along the way he finds out a lot about others, and a lot about himself. Kinsey was controversial to be sure, but also a leader.
First and foremost what bothered me most about Kinsey was that Liam Neeson never aged until right at the end. I can't tell you how distracting I found that. From the moment we see Liam as a grown up Kinsey until his kids are all grown up, he looks exactly the same. Laura Linney's character Clara seems to age a bit over time, but Kinsey looks old all the time. Whether he was 20 or 60, he was just old. I'm thinking that while Liam Neeson is a fine actor, they might have chosen someone younger to play Kinsey, because it's easier making someone look older, than it is making them look younger. I have not seen a picture of the real Kinsey, so maybe Neeson looks exactly like him, but after seeing Neeson in person, I can tell you, he's old. And very quiet. But that aside, the fact that the main character never aged wasn't just a physical annoyance. Often times it was hard to know exactly when things were happening. Was this particular interview early on in his project, or was it later? I never got a real good sense of time and that threw me off.
The other issue I had was why Kinsey suddenly decided to go from studying bugs to studying sex. It seemed to easy that his father was against sex and anything else considered morally wrong, and because of that Kinsey decided to go into sex research. The fact that the entire revelation came in an instant was even worse. After trying to have sex for the first time, Kinsey suddenly sits up and declares his intentions to study sex like it's never been studied before. No build up, no reasons given, he just decides that that's what he wants to do, and he's gonna do it, come hell or high water. I never got a real sense about the man leading up to that realization and that hindered me in understanding the man he became.
There is some controversy about Kinsey. He was definitely bi-sexual, and the movie makes that very clear. But the controversy comes more from his supposed acceptance of pedophilia. In real life, and in the movie, Kinsey interviews a man who had sex with hundreds of underage boys and girls, and Kinsey, instead of being disgusted and/or reporting the man, listens to him like he did with everyone else, and uses it in his research. I'm not sure if this can be considered acceptance of the act because his reaction fit in with the rest of his personality. Kinsey was very detached from the act of sex. The movie makes a point to show that love isn't that important, until very late in his life. Kinsey has an affair with one of his assistants, then promotes the idea to his wife, who has an affair with the same assistant (played by a wonderful Peter Sarsgaard.) Everything Kinsey does is about the research; it's all about information. He devised a method of taking down people's sexual histories without having to use their names or anything else identifiable about them. He needed people to trust him with this very personal information, otherwise it was all for nothing. So when he finds this pedophile, to him, he's just another person. The movie doesn't go into whether or not Kinsey found the man repulsive after the fact, and I think that was a good idea. Without knowing the man it's hard to know what he really thought, but to me, it was all about the information, and morality went out the window.
The performances in the film were all solid, with a Laura Linney and the aforementioned Peter Sarsgaard being the standouts. Linney brought a quiet dignity to her character. Clara was in love with a man who was a hard man to love, but she stuck with him and encouraged him. Sarsgaard's character of Clyde Martin, Kinsey's right hand man, was a tough one to play, as he had a couple of full nude scenes, and had to make out with both Neeson and Linney. He played Clyde as someone who initially might have gotten in with Kinsey because he thought he'd get a lot of sex out of it, but he came to be someone who understood the ramifications of working with Kinsey. I'm starting to really enjoy Sarsgaard's performances, having really liked him in this film, Garden State and Shattered Glass recently.
THE BOTTOM LINE
So overall, I thought Kinsey was an OK movie. It was very technical and graphic at times, but until the end, I didn't find any heart to it. Liam Neeson's non-aging was very distracting, but the performances of Laura Linney and Peter Sarsgaard saved the film.