Kinsey


Directed by: Bill Condon
Written by:Bill Condon
Starring: Liam Neeson, Laura Linney, Peter Sarsgaard, Chris O’Donnell, Timothy Hutton, John Lithgow
Released: January 13, 2005
Grade: A-

In 1920, Professor Albert Charles Kinsey arrived at Indian University to lecture in zoology.  His area of expertise was the gall wasp and he published two books on the subject.  His collection is currently housed in the American Museum of Natural History.  As fascinating as that sounds, you’ll be happy to know that this isn’t the focus of the film.

As a scientist, students approached Kinsey for advice on a major taboo subject – sex.  Sensing an opportunity, he began to teach a marriage course in 1938.  Kinsey became an overnight sensation.  Hundreds flocked to his lecturers to learn more about a topic that had always been swept under the carpet.

As the questions continued, Kinsey realised he didn’t know all the answers.  There was no one who knew the sexual activities of the American people and Professor Kinsey wanted to become the first.  Over the next 10 years, he assembled a team and questioned thousands of people across the country.  His results were startling and were revealed to the public in 1948 when he published Kinsey’s Sexual Behaviour In The Human Male.  It sold out in days and sat atop the best seller lists across the U.S.

I am a fan of writer-director Bill Condon.  In 1999 he made Gods & Monsters which won him a screenwriting Oscar and was my second favourite film of that year.  It was story of director James Whale (played brilliantly by Ian McKellan) and his homosexual relationship with his gardener (Brendan Fraser).  Kinsey is a similar film in that it is set in the first half of the 20th Century, looks at homosexuality and is based on a real person.

The other similarity is that the central character is a flawed one.  Professor Kinsey (played in the film by Liam Neeson) did some amazing work and opened society’s eyes to many issues but he himself had his own problems.  Kinsey relationship with his wife Clara (Linney) was a complicated one and his work had it effects.  There were those too looking to stop Kinsey and his research.  As employee Clyde Martin tells Kinsey “sex is a risky game because if you’re not careful, it will cut you wide open.”

Kinsey is a well-made film in that it portrays the Professor for what he was – a scientist.  He thought like a scientist, acted like a scientist and dreamed like a scientist.  When his research created dissent in the community, he was unmoved.  His job was simply to collect the data and collate it.  He was publishing facts, not opinions.

Three of the most underappreciated actors in the business, Liam Neeson, Laura Linney and Peter Sarsgaard, boost the film with superb performances.  Each will be making a strong run at an Oscar nomination when they are announced next week.  With the backing of Bill Condon’s screenplay, what we see on screen is a very interesting film.  I don’t know about you but I particularly enjoy films about real people making a difference.