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Overall Rating
3.92

Awesome: 29.03%
Worth A Look49.46%
Just Average: 10.75%
Pretty Crappy: 6.45%
Sucks: 4.3%

11 reviews, 27 user ratings


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Kinsey
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by Robert Flaxman

"Ohhhhh, that's unsexy."
3 stars

Biopics always have to take the bad with the good, but few seem as split on their subject as Bill Condon’s Kinsey, which depicts the famous sex researcher’s transition from stuffy, sexually stunted biologist to slightly less stuffy, sexually healthy biologist to kind of creepily obsessed, sexually inappropriate biologist. Condon’s ultimate conclusion: Kinsey did a lot of weird stuff, but his legacy was for the best.

The film covers most of Dr. Alfred Kinsey (Liam Neeson)’s life, with emphasis mostly on the time spent on the massive sex study that produced his books Sexual Behavior in the Human Male and Sexual Behavior in the Human Female. It also looks at his personal relationships, including with wife Clara (Laura Linney) and several assistants (Peter Sarsgaard, Chris O’Donnell, Timothy Hutton).

While Kinsey’s findings have proven valuable in various ways over the years, there have been questions about his methodology. If Kinsey is anything to go by, such questions are, at the very least, reasonable. Condon depicts Kinsey as a man whose desire for data fully overwhelmed what most people would have considered common sense – he took a number of films of sexual behavior, most featuring his assistants, their wives, his own wife, even himself, in various configurations. Considering how clinically Kinsey seemed to regard sex, it’s amazing that he ever got any enjoyment out of it at all, but either way he evidently had very little concept of restraint, at least as long as the project was being aided.

Condon implies that Kinsey’s behavior was due at least in part to an overly strict upbringing by a Methodist preacher father (John Lithgow) who, along with most people through Kinsey’s time, insisted that only conventional sex within the boundaries of marriage was considered acceptable. This was likely true, but Kinsey swung pretty far in the other direction, going so far as to allow extramarital sex between his wife and one of his assistants, Clyde Martin (Sarsgaard). Like much of the film, Condon merely depicts this scene and doesn’t offer any real suggestion as to why it happened. As with Kinsey himself, Condon seems to take a more clinical view, delving less into the emotions of the participants.

With so much ground to cover and not much time to do it – a two-hour film and just a 37-day shoot – Condon refuses to dwell on any number of peripherals. Kinsey’s homosexual leanings are dealt with in a brief sequence and thereafter ignored. A scene in which Kinsey’s son chides him for discussing sex with his daughters at the dinner table and then stomps off suffices for the last word on the matter.

So why do a biopic when your view of your subject is mostly aloof and certainly quite judgmental a lot of the time? While Condon clearly doesn’t agree with certain things Kinsey did, and seems like he would have had issues with the doctor’s personality, his view of the data itself appears in a more favorable light. Near the end of the film, a woman tells Kinsey how his book saved her life, as she previously felt her lesbian impulses were totally abnormal. Condon confines his outright praise for Kinsey to this single scene, but his partial responsibility for starting sexual progressiveness in America receives implied praise in many other places. Himself a homosexual, Condon’s ability to live and work with his sexuality in the open was, if nothing else, made a little easier by Kinsey’s revelation that there was no such thing as “normal” and “abnormal” when it came to sexual behavior, only “common” and “less common”.

Considering that Kinsey’s text – though it sold quite well – was rather dry, it is perhaps appropriate that the film is one of the least sexy ever made despite being entirely about sex. Kinsey is blasé about most of its sexual content, and it features perhaps the single least erotic sex scene in film history (Kinsey and his wife’s fumbling first attempt). All of this makes sense given the subject, but it can be a bit hard to watch at times.

Kinsey’s biggest problem, though, is simply how dry it is overall. It frequently plays as though one were reading a book about Kinsey and kind of skimming through it; Condon simply doesn’t have time to dote on very many details in any place, and this prohibits the film from settling down long enough to get interesting. It features solid acting performances from Neeson, Linney, and Sarsgaard, as well as a nice bit part turn from Lithgow, but only rarely are they called upon to do much of anything. In another biopic, Neeson might be expected to anchor the film, but here he never really has anything solid to which he can anchor. Yes, the fact that we mostly learn about Kinsey himself as a sexual being and seem to know so little about him as a person feels appropriate thematically, but it guts the film of drama and drive. Having a theme is nice, but it’s hard to make it work if the theme is uninteresting, even if that’s sort of the point.

Condon and Neeson combine to make Kinsey a compelling character, in that he is partially supported but fundamentally flawed. He is in some respects an unknown quantity, but what we do know makes him interesting. The film around him, though, counteracts that purpose by dragging this interesting character into a morass of tedium. Alfred Kinsey is definitely worthy of some praise, but beyond that, Kinsey just doesn’t seem to know what to do with him.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=10447&reviewer=385
originally posted: 01/29/05 04:48:15
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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

1/25/11 PAUL SHORTT ENGROSSING BIOPIC WITH GOOD PERFORMANCES 4 stars
11/02/08 Shaun Wallner Interesting Movie! 4 stars
7/27/07 McGregger TERRIBLE. The acting, script, plot, casting. Bad from top to bottom. 1 stars
7/24/05 SL On-screen sausage due to gay director, but otherwise unecessary 3 stars
6/28/05 BoyInTheDesignerBubble Peter Sarsgaard naked. 5 stars from me! 5 stars
6/24/05 Mr Fluffy Apparently, Liam Neeson has a rather huge cock. So he tells me. 4 stars
3/30/05 DavidOz V good, suddenly knowing the context made the science live 5 stars
3/26/05 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
2/10/05 Liam Neeson? I thought that was Ralph Finnes!! Sex and the shitty. 3 stars
1/29/05 Casey Tells okay 3 stars
1/28/05 buddy garrett Neeson's performance is good but there is nothing else. 3 stars
1/13/05 Neil Pretty good 4 stars
12/30/04 Landshark Breeding for sophisticates beats sex for dummies any day 4 stars
12/11/04 EILEEN GOLDMAN EXCELLENT FILM,OUTSTANDING PERFORMANCES 4 stars
12/05/04 Travis Bickle Movie was a breath of fresh air compared to most movies lately. Not masterpiece but damn... 4 stars
12/04/04 Doreen finally an intelligent movie emerges out of the Hollywood junk 5 stars
12/03/04 Titus Really quite good, but nothing really stellar. 4 stars
11/21/04 Mack Mangham An Oscar for Neeson coming this way. Great movie, great acting 5 stars
11/19/04 Desperado a pervert huh, guess you voted for Bush 5 stars
11/16/04 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
11/10/04 Kelly Glorify a PERVERT? No thanks. 1 stars
11/03/04 MMM Shouldn't opinions be based on stellar performances, rather than subject matter? 4 stars
10/30/04 Hugo Haas Smug and campy failure, second half a complete mess 1 stars
10/24/04 Sinick LIES! Kinsey was a child molester & rapist! Read about it from Dr. Reisman or Dr. Makow 1 stars
9/14/04 MM Gonna get Oscar noms for sure 4 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  12-Nov-2004 (R)
  DVD: 17-May-2005

UK
  N/A

Australia
  13-Jan-2005


Directed by
  Bill Condon

Written by
  Bill Condon

Cast
  Liam Neeson
  Laura Linney
  Peter Sarsgaard
  Chris O'Donnell
  Oliver Platt
  Timothy Hutton



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