Kinsey review by Mike Long3-D movie technology was created to bring the picture (and thus the action) into the audience, making the viewer feel as if they were a part of the movie. But, have you ever seen a film which had "3-D Emotional Content"? As odd as that concept may sound, the bio-pic Kinsey fits that description as it's able to make the viewer just as uncomfortable as the characters in the movie -- thus giving the movie a very realistic feel. This marks the movie as successful in its endeavors, but is it entertaining?
Alfred Kinsey (portrayed by Liam Neeson for most of the film) was born in the early part of the 20th century and reared by his domineering father, Alfred Seguine Kinsey (John Lithgow), who was both a preacher and a faculty member at an engineering school. The senior Kinsey expected his son to follow in his footsteps, but Alfred loved the outdoors and opted to become a zoologist instead. After landing a teaching position at Indiana University, Kinsey, known as "Prok" to his students, soon courts and marries a student named Clara McMillen (Laura Linney). Kinsey settles into his work, studying the life cycle of the gall wasp (sp?), but soon notices something odd -- students often come to him with questions about sexuality. He proposes to Dean Wells (Oliver Platt) that a sexuality course be taught, much to the chagrin of Professor Rice (Tim Curry), who feels that sex is adequately covered in his health class. Kinsey is granted his request and his class is soon brimming with male and female students.
Still, these students present many questions to Kinsey as to what is "normal". Kinsey proposes that a study of human sexuality be done to learn what indeed is "normal". Utilizing three assistants, Clyde Martin (Peter Sarsgaard), Wardell Pomeroy (Chris O'Donnell), and Paul Gebhard (Timothy Hutton), Kinsey sets out to interview 1 million subjects for his study. Along the way, he will encounter many obstacles, run into unexpected controversy, and, most importantly, face his own sexuality and the sexual choices of those around him.
No matter what one thinks of Kinsey overall, the film must be recognized for its ability to project its subject matter into the audience. The conceit of the film is that Alfred Kinsey doesn't understand why adults can't speak frankly about sex. And yet, the frank sex-speak in the film is guaranteed to stymie most audience members at least once. The film doesn't achieve this through raunchy language a la a gross-out teen comedy, but from very matter-of-fact and sober discussions of sexuality. This fact makes the film even more powerful, as even now, some 60 years later, Americans still don't discuss sex in any honest way. (I mean, I watched the movie with my wife, with whom I've done some the things talked about in the movie, and I was squirming the whole time!)
And while this subject matter can be challenging, it's alluring at the same time and draws the viewer into the film. Once there, we notice the excellent acting by Liam Neeson and Laura Linney. (Both were nominated for Golden Globes, and Linney got a nod for an Oscar. I'm surprised that Neeson didn't get an Oscar nomination.) These two actors lost themselves in their roles, and it's obvious that both did a lot of physical preparations for the parts. The supporting cast is great as well, especially the typically good Peter Sarsgaard (who can't seem to keep his pants on). These performers do a fine job of delivering the often pointed dialogue in the film.
However, the good acting and the shocking dialogue can't hide Kinsey's flaws. The movie drags in the middle and feels very redundant and Kinsey gathers his research and faces challenges. The movie never gets boring, but it does seem to be going in circles at times. Another problem is the character of Kinsey himself. While Neeson delivers a great performance, Kinsey remains inscrutable and it can be difficult to gauge his motivation at times. And, as with many biopics, Kinsey ends right when things are getting truly interesting. As with his Gods and Monsters, director Bill Condon has made a good film with Kinsey, but the combination of sex research and a stand-offish nature don't equal a true success.
Kinsey finds it way to DVD courtesy of 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The image looks good, as it's sharp and clear for the most part, although there is some notable grain in some shots. Artifacting is noticeable at times, but never overly distracting. The colors are good, and the black & white shots look particularly crisp. The DVD carries both a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track as well as a DTS 5.1 track. Both deliver clear dialogue and show no indications of defects. Being a dialogue-driven drama, the bulk of the audio comes from the front and center channels. There is some occasional surround sound from crowd scenes and musical cues, and these sound fine. Neither the Dolby nor DTS track is the clear winner here, as both sound fine.
Kinsey has come to DVD in two editions. The single-disc edition contains only one extra feature, an audio commentary from writer/director Bill Condon. This is a good track, as Condon in very thorough in his details concerning the film's production. He talks about the origins of the film, the research, the casting, and the locations. The talk is very scene-specific and never overly technical. There is also a two-disc edition of Kinsey. The second disc features many more extras. "The Kinsey Report: Sex on Film" is an 84-minute featurette which is incredibly thorough, as it covers the history of the real Alfred Kinsey, as well as documenting the making of the film through cast and crew interviews and behind-the-scenes footage. We get an eye-opening tour in "Sex Ed. at the Kinsey Institute" (7 minutes). This disc contains 21 deleted scenes, totaling 25 minutes, which can be viewed with an optional commentary. The extras are rounded out by a 3-minute "Gag Reel" and the "Theatrical" and "Teaser" trailers for the movie.
7 out of 10 Jackasses
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