Dir/scr: Bill Condon US.2004. 124mins
A deftly handled mixture ofpersonal drama and social history, Kinseysculpts a compelling film from the life of the pioneering scientist who devotedhimself to the study of human sexuality. Beautifully judged and paced, it isboth intellectually stimulating and emotionally satisfying.
Illuminating the presentthrough dramatising the past, it offers the traditional pleasures of anintelligent, well-heeled biopic with a strong contemporary resonance in the wayit explores the tensions between repressive puritanism and individual liberty.Serious-minded audiences should eagerly embrace a film that seems a likelyawards contender across several areas including screenplay and actingcategories.
A previous Oscar-winner forhis screenplay of Gods And Monsters (1998), Bill Condon brings a similarsensitivity and imagination to condensing the essence of Kinsey's life into atwo-hour film.
He begins with Kinsey(Neeson) acting as a guinea pig for his team of researchers. Intimate questionssketch in his upbringing by a tyrannical preacher father (Lithgow) who believedthat matters of the flesh were a breeding ground for immorality. Eventually, herebels and sets off on his journey, becoming a cultured biologist who devoteshimself to research into wasps.
Candid questions prompthonest answers as he discusses his relationship with student Clara (Linney) whobecomes his wife. It is the awful reality of their awkward, painful firstattempts at intercourse that sends them to a specialist and makes Kinseyrealise that their ignorance is shared by many.
Throughout the course ofhis life, it is the personal experiences within his own marriage andrelationships that spark Kinsey's curiosity about the wider world.
When Kinsey starts his ground-breakingstudy of American sexuality, he is a revolutionary seeking to divorce humanbehaviour from moral judgment and provide solid scientific evidence on thereality of everyday sexual experience. It is inevitable that he is seen by someas a subversive, undermining the very fabric of decent society.
The film invites modernaudiences to laugh at attitudes and educational films that seem to belong tothe dark ages. Scare-mongering tactics and the advocacy of abstinence provokehowls of derision but do not seem that far removed from some of the moralcrusaders currently on the march in America.
The human element comes inthe way Kinsey's research effects his own life. A close affinity with studentClyde Martin (Sarsgaard) leads to a relationship and the realisation that he isnot exclusively heterosexual. Clara has little choice but to accept suchrevelations and even enjoys her own fling with Clyde. Driven and dispassionate,even Kinsey must acknowledge that sexual freedom has its emotional consequences.
Prodcos: QwertyFilms, N1 European Film Prods
Int'l sales: Myriad Pictures
Exec prods: Michael Kuhn, Francis Ford Coppola, Bobby Rock, Kirk D'Amico
Prod des: Richard Sherman
Main cast: Liam Neeson, Laura Linney, Chris O'Donnell, Peter Sarsgaard, TimothyHutton, John Lithgow