Directed by : Bill Condon
Written by : Bill Condon
Starring : Liam Neeson, Laura Linney and Chris O’Donnell
From the director of Gods and Monsters, itself a fictional account of a period in the later days of Frankenstein director James Whale comes a more wide ranging and surprisingly, for such a controversial figure, a much more conventional biopic. Liam Neeson adds an engaging humanity and appeal to his portrayal of the much discussed sexologist Professor Kinsey much as he has done with similar sub-historical figures in previous movies (Michael Collins, Schindler’s List).
Son of a moralizing and self-righteous Methodist preacher (John Lithgow) who thinks zippers are the devil’s own invention and that ‘lust has a thousand avenues’ it is no surprise that young Alfred Kinsey rejects the career of engineering that his father has chosen for him and instead becomes a biologist; the solitary pursuit of observing nature being a childhood respite from his bullying father. His particular field of study at Indiana University, as an entomologist, was the study of wasps and though he had books published in this field he was under no illusions as to its particular use or popularity.
Because he and his new wife ‘Mac’ (Laura Linney) endure a troublesome consummation of their marriage due to their inexperience and ignorance they have to seek help. This results in Prok, as he was affectionately known, becoming a sort of an empathetic unofficial counsellor to campus students. With a select group of researchers he sets out on an ambitious project to record the heretofore unexamined sexual habits of the American people apply the same strict scientific methodology that he applied to entomology.
This research resulted in his bestselling and groundbreaking work, Sexual Behaviour in the Human Male in 1948. When its sequel, dealing with the female of the species was published it was a bridge too far in the repressive and conformist fifties and the Kinsey Foundation struggled to retain funding in the face of negative publicity and congressional hearings, apparently Hoover was irked that Kinsey refused to aid the hunt for homosexuals in the State Department. While outside the ‘forces of chastity’ were amassing, internally the rather libertine practices of the research group were coming home to roost also as the lines between the scientific and the non-scientific were becoming blurred.
While Neeson and Linney give their roles a real human depth the real standout is Peter Sarsgaard as an assistant researcher His character embodies the dichotomy at the heart of the story; as a bisexual he has an affair with both Kinseys, purely in the pursuit of empirical research of course, but baulks when another researcher tries some extracurricular ‘research’ on his own wife.
This results in a telling confrontation with Prok, mirroring an earlier one with his own father, where he accuses the Professor of practicing the fallacy of separating love and sex. While a few characters suffer from stereotyping and Lithgow is let down by an ill-conceived and highly improbable scene in which he submits himself to an interview by his son the other interview subjects are all colourful and add immeasurably to the wonderful sense of time.
Kinsey is a fitting testament to a flawed man whose life’s work was in the service of diversity and against ignorance, believing as he did that ‘only variation is real’. What do you think about this movie. Share your experience about this movie in comments.
MoviesCrunch Rating – 8/10