Preview by: Jack Foley
IN WHAT is proving to be a particularly strong year for biopics
(Ray, Beyond The Sea, Alexander,
etc), another one, about the sexologist, Alfred C Kinsey, could
well become another of this year's strong Oscar contenders.
Liam Neeson stars as the sex expert in question, who in 1948
changed American culture and created a media sensation with his
book, Sexual Behavior in the Human Male.
Kinsey compiled his research for the book by asking thousands
of people about the most intimate aspects of their lives, and
subsequently made some startling claims about masturbation, homosexuality,
prostitutes and bestiality.
Despite provoking an outcry, the sexologist has since been credited
with lifting the weight of doubt and shame from a society in which
sex was hidden and knowledge was considered dangerous.
And his work sparked one of the most intense cultural debates
of the past century – a debate that continues today.
Critics in America have been raving about the film since it opened
recently (November 12, 2004), but it hasn't escaped controversy,
with conservative groups in America pledging to protest at screenings.
According to a report on the BBC, The Generation Life group claims
Kinsey was partly responsible for 'devastating consequences of
sexually transmitted diseases, pornography and abortion'.
And they have accused writer and director, Bill Condon, of 'sugar-coating
the issue', criticising the film for not including more negative
information about the researcher.
"They're trying to make him look like a genius who all of
humanity should be grateful for," explained Generation Life
head, Brandi Swinde.
But Condon hit back by accusing the protesters of 'confusing
discussion with endorsement' and insisting that he had tried to
present both sides of Kinsey's character.
"Kinsey was a very complex man, in some ways damaged beyond
repair," said Condon, who has previously won an Oscar for
Gods and Monsters.
"He affected everybody's life, and I hope the film gets
a little breathing room for people to see it and think about it
The film opens in the UK on March 4.
Heading the positive word-of-mouth from America was the
New York Times, which wrote that 'although it has its
share of carnality, Bill Condon's wise and witty biography of
the sex researcher Alfred C. Kinsey is, above all, an intellectual
Village Voice wrote: "Opening too late
for the election but still one the year's most politically relevant
movies, Condon's earnestly middlebrow biopic is an argument for
tolerance and diversity."
While CNN proclaimed that 'Kinsey does its subjects
- human, biological and psychological - justice'.
The New York Post, meanwhile, wrote that 'although
it's perhaps the least salacious major movie ever made about sex,
the biopic Kinsey is hardly clinical - it's as purely entertaining
as it is thought-provoking and timely'.
And the New York Daily News opined that 'Kinsey
is not easy to like as a person, but Condon has done such a good
job of filling in the doctor's psychological backstory that we
understand his single-minded determination to suss out every last
detail of human sexuality'.
Variety credited the film with being 'an interesting
life story told in a fun, disarming way'.
And the Hollywood Reporter stated that it 'boasts
exceptional lead performances (by a never-better Liam Neeson and
Laura Linney) and lovely writing by Condon'.
Rolling Stone was also positive, stating that
'Kinsey wanted to snap the public out of sexual ignorance. And
Condon's knockout of a movie tries to do the same. You'll be shocked
at how far we haven't come'.
E! Online, meanwhile, wrote that 'this is a
delightful trip back to a simpler - and certainly more uptight
- time. You decide how much we're better off for it'.
The Los Angeles Times also raved, writing that
'there is no ocean of greater magnitude than the sexual function,'
Kinsey wrote in the introduction to his second book, and the guidance
he provided to help navigate that sea made for a notable life
and a significant film'.
And the Los Angeles Daily News opined that 'whatever
you might think about Kinsey's research methods and findings,
Kinsey succeeds marvelously in its depiction of how his pioneering
work sent shock waves into 1950s America'.
The final word, however, goes to Reelviews,
which concluded: "Although the strength of Kinsey is the
subject matter, it would be criminal not to note the fine performances
of Liam Neeson and Laura Linney, who imbue their characters with
humanity and likeability."