Film Reviews

KINSEY

By • Nov 12th, 2004 •

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Fox Searchlight Pictures presents in association with Qwerty Films a N1 European Film Produktions / American Zoetrope / Pretty Pictures production
MPAA rating: R / Running time — 118 minutes

QUOTE: Another sanitized bio of a flawed man.

What of John Nash’s “denied” homosexuality? What of the arrest for indecent exposure after an encounter in a Venice Beach men’s room that ended his tenure at the Rand Corporation? What about Nash’s two same-sex relationships and two same-sex encounters chronicled in the book about his life? These important features of who Nash was never made it into Ron Howard’s A BEAUTIFUL MIND.

Neither did J. M. Barrie’s “unhealthy” hobby of photographing young boys nude. It never is even hinted at in FINDING NEVERLAND. Scholars’ pronounced judgments on Barrie’s pedophilia be damned!

And what of TROY? Achilles did not have a young cousin at his side. Achilles’s “best friend Patroclus” was his gay lover.

A fan sent me an email that read: “What happened to Ray Charles’s twelve children in RAY?”

Now comes KINSEY, the story of a highly controversial man whose reputation is haunted by charges of pedophilia. His sadomasochist tendency was probably so evident that writer/director Bill Condon had to reference it (but it’s solo S&M).
I know, I know. Kinsey was merely doing research.

If only Condon dropped all the technical, dry play-by-play of Kinsey’s early life as an academician and spent more time crafting the psychological depths of the debilitating relationship Kinsey had with his horrible, demeaning father and the dynamics of his having a sexual affair with a male graduate student. The lectures and university meetings weighted down the drama. The Kinsey open marriage is not washed over but it is not deeply analyzed. I did not understand these people. I did not have a sense for the power struggle within the Kinsey household.

I do know that Condon feels Kinsey was Saint Sex Kinsey. We leave the movie with Kinsey interviewing a mature female subject (Lynn Redgrave) thanking Kinsey on her knees for allowing her to accept that she was in love with another woman. She kisses his ring. Then we end with the image of Kinsey hugging a big tree.

Alfred “Prok” Kinsey (Liam Neeson) had an oppressive childhood with a bullying, mean-spirited, Bible-vulgar preacher father he was named after (John Lithgow). Kinsey becomes a biologist famous for studying a certain type of insect, the gall wasp. He collected the largest number of these insects. He marries one of his students, Clara McMillen (Laura Linney). Their inexperience at sex (and his big penis) is the driving factor that turns Kinsey’s interest from gall wasps to humans. Humans become his subjects. He puts their lives – every moment of it – under a verbal microscope. Teaching at Indiana University he learns that his students are ignorant about sex. He decides to help them.

Kinsey hand-picks a group of researchers to train: Clyde Martin (Peter Sarsgaard), Wardell Pomeroy (Chris O’Donnell) and Paul Gebhard (Timothy Hutton). But it is openly bisexual Martin who becomes Kinsey’s confidante and sexual companion. A frequent guest at the Kinsey home, Martin eventually tires of sex with Kinsey and asks him for permission to have sex with Clara.

From then on, it’s threesomes, foursomes, and filming it all.

Kinsey, now an infamous sexologist, writes the seminal study on male sexuality, the 1948 “Sexual Behavior in the Human Male.” We plow through the interviews. It becomes a sensational best-seller and rips open the secrets behind American male sex conduct and practices. Kinsey comes under puritanical scrutiny, the hunt for Communists, and gays in the FBI. His Rockefeller funding and academic support are threatened. Rich guy Huntington Hartford – this month generously profiled in Vanity Fair magazine – toys with the idea of helping Kinsey continue his research. Kinsey refuses to be society’s performing monkey. He just wants money for his work!

Neeson gives a textured, brave performance. While the daring kiss between him and Sarsgaard is absolutely necessary and central to the story, Neeson never gives an inkling of his partiality to his male students. While Clara hints that male favorites come and go with frequency, we never see Kinsey’s sexual lust. Only his obsession with data.

KINSEY is a little too dry and clinical to be fascinating. There is a fine line straddled here. Kinsey does not enjoy sex or love. He is just presented as a scientist lusting after the process, not the subject. Against directives of stars portraying real people who cannot be manipulative, cruel, or egomaniacs, Kinsey must have been a tough, demanding sexual tyrant. Neeson was certainly right to give his performance this uncompromising slant even though the director tends to deify Kinsey.


Cast:
Alfred Kinsey: Liam Neeson
Clara McMillen: Laura Linney
Wardell Pomeroy: Chris O’Donnell
Clyde Martin: Peter Sarsgaard
Paul Gebhard: Timothy Hutton
Alfred Sequine Kinsey: John Lithgow
Thurman Rice: Tim Curry
Herman Wells: Oliver Platt
Alan Gregg: Dylan Baker
Final Interview Subject: Lynn Redgrave
Alice Martin: Julianne Nicholson

Credits:
Director-screenwriter: Bill Condon
Producer: Gail Mutrux
Executive producers: Michael Kuhn, Francis Ford Coppola, Bobby Rock, Kirk D’Amico
Director of photography: Frederick Elmes
Production designer: Richard Sherman
Editor: Virginia Katz
Costume designer: Bruce Finlayson
Music: Carter Burwell

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