Kinsey was one of the pioneers in actually investigating sexuality in a clinical and scientific fashion


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For most people of the current generation the open and frank discussion of sexuality is something they take for granted. Most of them where born of parents that lived through the so called sexual revolution of the sixties, they talk and act upon feelings that those of my generation and that of our parents would never consider as ‘proper’.

The openness of sexuality is owed in large part to one man, Dr. Alfred C. Kinsey. His research and curriculum at Indiana University was the pivotal point in how human beings would regard the sexual nature common to us all. Prior to Kinsey most of the information regarding sex was based on myth, fear and complete misunderstanding. Kinsey was one of the pioneers in actually investigating sexuality in a clinical and scientific fashion. Without this dedicated researcher there would be no birth control, no gay rights movement, single parent households would be pariahs and premarital sex still forbidden. No matter what your moral take on these topics happens to be you have to acknowledge that this man forever changed the scope of human interactions. It is not so much that Kinsey brought about the behavior that his work entailed; he was the man that brought existing behavior out into the open.

Kinsey (Liam Neeson) was a man that never set out to research human sexuality, the original focus of his work was in taxidermy and evolution. The primary subjects of his investigations were humble gull wasp. When Kinsey moved on from the world of insects to that of human beings he brought the same almost dispassionate techniques to bear on his new subjects. Kinsey was a brilliant man, graduating from Bowdoin University in Main with a formidable magna cum laude. He went on to achieve his PhD from Harvard coming to Indiana as an assistant professor of zoology. By the late thirties he was one of the new luminaries on the scientific scene. While his tendency to being emotionally distant made for a great scientist, it did pose numerous problems in his own personal life. Part of this detachment was with out a doubt due to his upbringing by a fundamentalist Christian preacher father (John Lithgow). He would remain emotionally isolated until he finally fell in love with a former student Clara (Laura Linney). Clara was able to do what very few people could, draw out the human side of Kinsey. They shared everything including affairs with his protégé Clyde (Peter Sarsgaard).

Funded by the esteemed Rockefeller Foundation Kinsey used his students to poll people, anonymously, about their sexual attitudes and behavior. What was released in his 1948 best seller, "Sexual Behavior in the Human Male" was that people did masturbate, they had extramarital and premarital sex and most important of all, people enjoyed it. Kinsey did away with the notion that there was a sexual norm, what was right for one couple might be considered deviant to another. The nation may have outraged in public over his findings but this was a best seller, indicating that they did find his research noteworthy.

While many of the ancillary performances are fantastic this is basically a two person play. Whether Liam Neeson is playing a Jedi Master or a man set out to save people from the holocaust, he never fails to give his all. Here he sets out to show us this man, faults included. He does not attempt to glorify Kinsey, just show him as an imperfect man that was dedicated to what he saw as research vital to the emotional health of the public and important to understand from a scientific vantage point. There is a quite gentleness to Neeson, something that serves him extremely well in how he presents Kinsey. He connects to the audience with an honesty that reflects the inner nature of the man he is portraying. Laura Linney is one of those actresses that may not always find work in the best of films (consider the Mothman Prophecies for example) but she is always the consummate professional. She is one of the true talents of her generation of working actors and she brings that dedication to the fore here. She has the difficult task of presenting Clara in such a way that the audience can not only identify with her but also to help us connect with Kinsey. Just as Clara humanized and socialized her husband Linney lets us in emotionally to the tribulations that this couple faced. Her Clara helped her emotionally scared husband and the audience has to respond to this expression of true love.

This biopic was written and directed by Bill Condon. While he has a number of projects on his resume perhaps his best known work previous to this was Gods and Monsters, a look at one of the first great directors, James Whale. Condon uses an almost documentary style in his approach to this film. The pacing is such that the audience is engaged even during the necessarily dry exposition. While he shows some of the etiology of Kinsey’s fight against repression he never crosses the line to blame. The stern father figure is from a long gone generation and was true to the values that he held and wanted to pass on to his son. It is this frank use of the script that drives this film beyond what lesser directors could have achieved. Condon’s use of camera work is inspired. He gives the feel that the camera is allowing us a view back in time to the actual people involved. His use of lighting gives a visual clue to the emotional state of the characters, we literally see them coming out of the shadows.

Fox has provided two variations of the Kinsey DVD. One is a rather plain vanilla release with commentary but little more. The better buy is the special edition that features extras such as a featurette entitled "The Kinsey Report: Sex on Film", numerous deleted scenes and a blooper reel. There is also an interactive sex quiz and a look at sex education at the Institute in this expanded set. Both versions have an excellent Dolby 5.1 audio track that gives incredible presence to the sound field. The mix is well balanced with better than normal channel separation. The anamorphic 2.35:1 video provides a spectacular color palette with no noticeable flaws or artifacts.

This is a film that is sure to spark controversy and at least lively discussion long after viewing. No matter what value you hold dear this film sheds light on how the collective views of sexuality changed in our society. Now, as many call for a return to previous held views on sex this film will show just what those pre-sexual revolution days where like. In any case, no matter what your opinions are of the subject this is a film with exceptional acting, script and direction.

Movie Review of Kinsey by Doug MacLean of

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