Kinsey (2004)

kinseyAlfred Charles Kinsey was a true pioneer of his time. Back then in the fifties conservatism and religion were all powerful and the mere mention of or exploration in to the world of sex was shocking and considered almost criminal. Kinsey gave the religious right a good scare and shook up the foundation of conservative America exposing it as anything but. He helped to bring down the mythological “American Values”, and “Nuclear family” by exposing us as human. Cleverly though, “Kinsey” is not approached with a dramatic angle, which is difficult when tackling a biographical account of a man whose father was disciplinary, and who challenged modern conventions.

“Kinsey” is instead approached with the spirit of a Michael Gondry film with a more eccentric, absurdist story that demands a lighter mood when explaining and exploring Kinsey who boldly explored sex and all its taboos. Bill Condon manages to imitate Gondry’s unpredictable and utterly odd niche very well and it suits the film well. Kinsey’s discovery and research in to sex was not to challenge authority, he was just a man–at least in this film–who was fascinated with sex of all kinds and his fascination became so insatiable he surpassed all authority and back talk and went on with his work.
“Kinsey”, for a film that focuses on a man who explored sex, is also very sexually graphic, there’s even a long passionate kiss between Neeson and Sarsgaard’s character at one point during the film. The director not only gives a dissection of this man, but he also brings us along for the work he invented.

He explored all sorts of sex like anal sex, fellatio, homosexuality, anal, fetishes of all kind, and so immense was his fascination that he even managed to alienate everyone around him, as all the geniuses and egocentrics tend to do. “Kinsey” is also fascinating as well as entertaining showing not only how daring Kinsey was, but how far people are willing to go to arouse themselves. Granted, it’s a stretch watching Neeson as a young man being talked down to Lithgow playing his father, but you get past that once you see the good performances by the excellent cast. Laura Linney is very good here as Kinsey’s somewhat begrudging wife Clara who not only finds herself on a constant defense of her husband, but also on the tail end of her husband’s research–so to speak. Peter Saarsgard gives yet another great performance as Kinsey’s assistant Clyde who presents an equal amount of zeal for the study of sex as he does and that reflects upon Kinsey’s ambition and his tunnel vision becomes more and more visible.

Neeson’s performance is very good here; Kinsey is never too comedic and never too melodramatic, and Neeson handles the eccentric material with grace. “Kinsey” is also very funny, not because it is a comedy per se, but because it effortlessly and boldly presents this sexual material and descriptions. In one of the best scenes, Kinsey and his children are talking about sex during dinner. In rather graphic detail. Rather graphic. Yet, the actors approach it with such normality, it becomes very funny to watch and listen to. I found myself laughing out loud many times. But “Kinsey” is more about a man who challenged conventions and explored common myths about sex and destroyed them. He helped people learn about sexual relations and how to prevent many things associated with sexual contact and for that “Kinsey” and Kinsey are well worth experiencing.

One truly pivotal element that felt immensely fictitious, regardless of how true it may have or could have been was John Lithgow’s character who played Kinsey’s dominant religious fanatical. While it’s true Kinsey’s father was a religious devout and disciplinary man, Lithgow’s role felt forced as being more important than it should have been. Rather than becoming an influence upon Kinsey’s study, he becomes an unnecessary antagonist that on occasion helped the film meander in to melodrama territory detracting from the semi-documentary nuance. Despite a very tacked on and forced sub-plot, “Kinsey” is a very funny, very graphic, and very well acted creative biographical comedy on the man who revolutionized sexual studies with rousing performances by Neeson, Linney, and Saarsgard.