Kinsey review by Cinema Guru Boy

Sex is not science. There are worlds of differences between the physical act of lovemaking and catalogued sets of lists of sexual acts, but Kinsey blurs the two together. Can someone appreciate a film while disagreeing on the message? Just because a film shows a viewpoint opposite of your own, is it still alright to appreciate the film without being a hippocrite? I, at times, wondered if a Fahrenheit 9/11 negative review was only negative because of the reviewer's conservative leanings, and thought that was wrong. But now in this predicament myself, not agreeing with Kinsey's dismissal of emotion behind the sexual experience, I found myself watching an extremely well-made film with a totally alienating message. This duality made Kinsey extremely intiguing.

The film begins with a voice-over, and that being Liam Neeson's voice, it's easy to get sucked in, as he's got that smoothness to his inflection that makes it impossible to resist. Then it's revealed that Kinsey is being interviewed, but we never see Kinsey, not until the final question of the interview, the one asked about his father, the one he doesn't answer. And as soon as he appears on screen, he disappears. And this cliffhanger grips you into the story. Less than a minute into the story, and the audience has to know what's happening next, what is the relationship between Kinsey and his father? However, this introduction the this character was too much "say," and not enough "show." It seemed like the easy way out to tell who this man was, and although effective, it seemed too contrived to jam a first act into the first couple minutes.

The film then jumps back to childhood and begins telling Kinsey's story linearly. Benjamin Walker, the fellow who plays Kinsey as a teenager, couldn't have been cast any better, there's no way Liam Neeson looked any diferent when he was 19. It's uncanny. Then as Kinsey grows up, and begins his scientific research in the field of moths, and begins teaching at the University of Indiana, Liam takes over the role and is absolutely commanding, really committing to the role with such conviction. At this point in Kinsey's career, Neeson plays him as a total egghead, even something of nerd, but his chemistry with Laura Linney as Clara McMillen as they persue a relationship is outstanding. Even though Kinsey is something of a dork, this budding romance is entirely believable, the attraction between the characters is entirely understandable. Once into their relationship, they finally comsummate their marriage, both losing their virginity. This act is entirely unpleasent for the characters and is extremely uncomfortable for the audience, which, of course, is the point of the scene, and therefore is incredibly well-done. Neeson's and Linney's portrayal of Clara and Kinsey, or Prok and Mac as they call each other, is the very foundation of the entire film, and a very strong foundation with which to work.

John Lithgow's role in this film is very prominent up until this point, as the father who terrorizes his teenaged son and then embarrasses him upon meeting his wife. Lithgow is absolutely gleefully dispicable, the very personification of inappropriate. However, it's hard to ignore that Lithgow cannot possibly be old enough to be Neeson's father, in reality, he's only seven years older. But that's nitpicking.

As in any biopic, there is a lot of information to cover in only 120 to 150 minutes. After all, this is a man's entire life we're trying to jam into a couple of hours. But writer-director Bill Condon handles this expertly. The plot redirections are flawless, using transitions to jump from different point of Kinsey's life and different aspects, flopping between his personal and his professional life, and the line over which both bleed. After teaching biology at U of I, Dean Herman Wells (Oliver Platt) gives Thurman Rice's (the scene-stealing Tim Curry) job of sex-education to Kinsey. Once in this setting, the beginning of Kinsey's scientific approach to sex unfolds. The discussions held in class are shocking, but then come the slides. The visual aids Kinsey uses explicitly show genitals left and right and then left again. Realizing you're watching this in a theater with mixed company brings the level of shock through the roof. It's no Brown Bunny, but still makes you gasp a bit nonetheless. From here on out, sex is the topic on everyone's mind.

If one character isn't discussing sex, another will bring it up, that's just the way this film works at this point. But the film is still lighthearted. There are a lot of laughs throughout the first half of the film, mostly in particular, a family dinner Kinsey and Mac have with their three children over a nice meal. The scene was frank and blunt, and absolutely priceless. But soon, once Kinsey makes the jump from sex-ed teacher to sexual researcher, the film becomes much more serious. His method of logging sexual histories of volunteers from around the country seem to trivialize sex, turning from an act of love to data. And the fact that this attitude toward sex is passed onto his minions is all the more despressing. Clyde Martin (who is more than just a minion) masterfully played by Peter Sarsgaard in a performance that maps out all kinds of shades of grey, Wardell Pomeroy (Chris O'Donnell in his usually stiff presence) and Paul Gebhard (Timothy Hutton, adequate, but with a too creepy mustache) comprise his minions who aid in Kinsey's research, not only in compiling histories, but in the demonstrating the phyisical act for him to study. Kinsey encouaged these men to wife-swap, and not only do they comply, but their wives are sucked into the life, too. All of this becomes disheartening. Sex is treated as a tool, a subject to research, and all emotional attachment becomes void. Maybe this is the point, but no counterpoint is then expressed to balence this line of thinking. But most of all, the film becomes dry. Not bad by any stretch, but dry.

Kinsey is undeniably an extremely well-made film, but how much entertainment value is attached? The last few scenes finally reinstall some emotion, but it may be too little too late. The film just didn't have heart for a long stretch. Liam Neeson pulled this one off, and Laura Linney helped do this masterfully, and it had an outstanding supporting cast, most notably Lithgow and Sarsgaard (and when I go through an entire review without ever mentioning Dylan Baker once, that has to show how stellar the rest of the cast was). Bill Condon is an extremely gifted writer and director, but this was a very ambitious project, it was just incredibly difficult subject matter with which to get audiences to identify. I have no major complaints, but I have no beaming endorsements either.

6 out of 10 Jackasses
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