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Kinsey (15)



Review by: Jack Foley | Rating: Two

DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: Audio commentary by director Bill Condon. 21 deleted scenes. Gag reel. Inside Look: Kingdom Of Heaven. Inside Look: Sideways Wine Featurette.

ALFRED C Kinsey created quite a stir when he published his taboo-shattering books, Sexual Behavior in the Human Male and Sexual Behavior in the Human Female in America in the late 40s and early 50s.

The books lifted the lid on American attitudes to sex, exploring what people did behind closed doors in an honest and frank manner.

Needless to say, the books became runaway bestsellers and provoked a media outrage, but they provided the spark that would later ignite the sexual revolution of the 1960s and fuel the increasing sexual tolerance of the ensuing decades.

It led to Kinsey being dubbed the 'American Freud' and compared with other great scientific pioneers like Galileo and Darwin, but it also led to his vilification in certain quarters, especially given the lengths to which he and his researchers would go to continue their exploration.

Needless to say, a film about such a controversial figure is never going to be easy viewing and writer-director Bill Condon's warts-and-all depiction is an uncompromising and frequently uncomfortable experience.

But it is driven by a terrific star turn from Liam Neeson, in the title role, and a strong ensemble cast, including Laura Linney, as Kinsey's long-suffering wife, and Peter Sarsgaard, as a bisexual sex researcher, whose dedication to the job led him to have sexual relations with both Kinsey and his wife.

During the course of his research, Kinsey concluded that each person's sexual make-up was unique and divided their practices into common or rare.

His interviews - or sexual histories - lifted the lid on everything from incest and rape, to bestiality and self-gratification.

And Condon's film refuses to hold back on any of these issues, containing its fair share of on-screen sex and nudity, as well as plenty of verbally graphic material.

It is sure to have viewers squirming in their seats at several points, while also laughing at the rigid and prudish behaviour of 1940s Americans.

The film chronicles Kinsey's life story, but rarely feels episodic thanks to the structure Condon employs - having Neeson's Kinsey, himself, relay his story while being interviewed by one of his own researchers.

Therefore, we see Kinsey's tough upbringing at the hands of his repressive father (played brilliantly by John Lithgow) interspered with his own observations in the classroom, as well as his first foray into sex, his growing scientific interest and his developing relationship with his wife.

And Kinsey isn't portrayed as a saint, either. His work was all-consuming, often at the expense of those he loved, and he pursued his ambitions ruthlessly and selfishly.

Both Condon and Neeson seem to have the measure of the man without feeling the need to be judgemental or sympathetic, persistently forcing viewers to form their own opinion without ever guiding them.

But such an uncompromising approach does have a drawback and eventually takes its toll on the viewer, given the film's two-hour plus running time.

Audiences are likely to feel exhausted come the inevitable conclusion and, quite possibly, not wanting to hear another word about sex.

That said, it's a fascinating story, well-told, that sheds light on one of the most controversial figures in recent American history that never feels voyeuristic or lazy.

For these reasons, it's a mentally stimulating experience and one that's well worth considering taking part in.

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