Saturday, September 29, 2012

#775. Kinsey (2004)

Directed By: Bill Condon

Starring: Liam Neeson, Laura Linney, Chris O'Donnell

Tag line: "Let's talk about sex"

Trivia: Laura Linney gained 20 pounds for this film, mainly by eating Krispy Kreme glazed donuts

Sexual behavior is a very touchy subject. There are rules for talking about such things, as defined by by both convention and good taste, and for many years, the line separating ‘normal’ sexuality from ‘deviancy’ was well established. Sexual therapist Alfred Kinsey wasn’t happy with simply erasing this line; he stomped it into the ground!

The son of a stern preacher (John Lithgow) who demanded that he attend engineering school, Kinsey (Liam Neeson) was instead drawn to the study of nature, and spent a large portion of his adult life teaching Biology at Indiana University. When some of his married students started asking him sexually related questions, and Kinsey himself faced sexual difficulties in his own marriage to wife Clara (Laura Linney), he petitioned the University to allow him to teach a specialized course, which would deal frankly with the topic of sexuality. Kinsey then took what he learned from that class, and, with the help of star pupil Clyde Martin (Peter Sarsgaard), toured the country conducting interviews and charting the sexual behavior of men and women from all walks of life. His research led to a best-selling novel, but more than that, it tore down the wall which ‘decent’ society had built to prevent open discussions about sex.

Kinsey offers a truthful, sometimes less-than-flattering account of its subject. Dr. Kinsey was not only a genius, but also an honest individual and a loving husband. Yet he could be callous, harsh, and a bit too forward when it came to his research, which often left those around him feeling very uncomfortable. At a dinner party hosted by his wife, Kinsey continually presses Alan Gregg (Dylan Baker), the head of the Rockefeller Foundation, for money to pursue his studies. Clara does her best to steer the conversation, discussing dinner and the weather, but Kinsey remains persistent, talking of homosexuality and masturbation while everyone else is eating pot roast. Liam Neeson gives yet another solid performance as Kinsey, showing us the man’s strengths as well as his weaknesses, and never emphasizing one over the other.

There were those who launched attacks against Kinsey when it was released in November of 2004, blaming its title character for the recent breakdown in morality. Robert Knight, of Concerned Women for America, blasted the movie as a “lionized” portrait of a man whose “proper place is with Nazi Dr. Joseph Mengele, or your average Hollywood horror flick mad scientist.” It’s as if people feel sexually transmitted diseases, teenage pregnancy and child molestation might have simply disappeared had Kinsey never made his research public. Yet these are not new issues; they’ve been with us, in some cases, for hundreds of years, and thanks to Kinsey, we can now address many of these problems out in the open. This, in my opinion, is Alfred Kinsey’s true legacy.

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