Review by: Jack Foley | Rating:
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
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 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
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
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.