Kinsey (2004)
Directed by Bill Condon

Artistic & Entertainment Value
* * * ½

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Synopsis & Analysis
Bill Condon's Kinsey, which relates the life of the famed sex researcher, Alfred Kinsey (Liam Neeson), from his childhood to his death, is a well made, consistently entertaining, if invariably mediocre film.


Even though the movie is entirely ordinary, it is ordinary in a better than average sort of way. The performances of the actors, if never astonishing, are always more than competent. The film's images, though never beautiful, are never distracting either, and the screenplay, while never poetic or clever, is rarely awkward.

The director does admittedly skim over the events of his protagonist's life and he both makes a number of strained connections and includes a few exaggerations. The viewer may thus groan when he sees that Kinsey's father (John Lithgow) is a sexually repressed, abusive religious fanatic, and he may roll his eyes when he is shown how the shy, bookish professor, impressed by his own inept and ignorant efforts to consummate his marriage, is transformed into an apostle of sexual liberation. Fortunately, whatever the story's shortcomings, the director's subject is so intriguing that the viewer's attention is never likely to wander.

The movie's best moments are, in fact, its depictions of Kinsey's research and the effects such research has on his family and friends. Condon, for instance, shows in one especially nicely realized sequence how Kinsey awkwardly attempts to question men in a gay bar, only to be seduced later that evening by his young male assistant. Elsewhere, the director depicts the protagonist railing against prudery, having sexually explicit conversations with his children, and interviewing an outlandishly strange and deeply disturbing sexual athlete, who recounts his conquests of men, women, children, and members of numerous other species. Almost all of these are well done and conjure up feelings of daring excitement, naughty silliness, or sympathy for the persons whose lives are being revealed.

What is more, the viewer is repeatedly made aware of how shocking much of what Kinsey said and did was to many of his contemporaries. He thus sees not only the protagonist's courage and determination, but also the ways in which that man managed to change society. A few examples of both of these elements are presented in ham-handed ways, but, on the whole, the director is successful in his delineations of such themes.


While it is never distinctive, Kinsey is, thanks to its fascinating subject, always entertaining. It is certainly worth watching.

Review by Keith Allen

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