“Liam Neeson stars as Alfred Kinsey, a man driven by scientific passion and personal demons to investigate the elusive mystery of human sexuality. Laura Linney garnered a Best Actress Oscar nomination for her compelling performance as Kinsey’s free-thinking wife. This provocative drama dares to lift the veil of shame from a society in which sex was hidden, knowledge was dangerous and talking about it was the ultimate taboo.”
Kinsey is rated R for pervasive sexual content, including some graphic images and descriptions.
Kinsey starts out good enough by showing how sexually repressed America was at the turn of the century. Men and women not only knew little about the taboo subject of sex, but they were given misinformation that led to irrational fears, embarrassment, and dysfunctional relationships between even husbands and wives. This is portrayed well in a scene where Kinsey and his wife Clara have painful and embarrassing problems with their sex lives just after getting married. The film does a great job setting the stage for Kinsey to see a need for sexual research and help people in crisis.
But as the movie goes along and Kinsey becomes more and more obsessed with his research, the character becomes less and less likable. He cheats on his wife with his male research assistant. He encourages wife swapping among his other assistants. Kinsey even enthusiastically quizzes a pedophile in the name of his research. He starts coming across as a person so desperate to explore sex and sort out his own psychological issues that it gets harder and harder to root for him.
Liam Neeson is excellent as Alfred Kinsey. He plays the character over the span of several decades and it works pretty well. Neeson portrays Kinsey as a pioneer that is eager to help society, yet he is inherently flawed at the same time. Laura Linney is also good as Clara McMillen. She transforms from the relatively meek spouse of Kinsey to a very mature and experienced partner. There are also a lot of strong performances by Chris O’Donnell, Peter Sarsgaard, Timothy Hutton, Oliver Platt and Tim Curry. John Lithgow is also very good as Alfred Seguine Kinsey, Kinsey’s Puritanical preacher father.
As intriguing as the story of Kinsey is, there’s a lot of imagery in the film that could potentially turn off a lot of audiences. For example, you’re treated to a bit of full frontal nudity by Peter Sarsgaard. This is followed up by a lot of kissing between Sarsgaard and Neeson. Then there’s a lot of footage of men and women masturbating, a threesome between Neeson and his research assistant and his wife, and other such wholesome family viewing. Kinsey even features some still photographs in a classroom of a penis penetrating a vagina. Yes folks, the film has “pervasive sexual content, including some graphic images and descriptions” just like the rating says. I’m kind of surprised it didn’t get an NC-17 based on a couple of the shots. All this stuff won’t be a problem for many of you out there, but it will kill the movie for many others. But I suppose you should expect this in a film about a sex researcher.
Who should see Kinsey? Anyone that is interested in the researcher himself or anyone that is interested in psychology. Fans of Liam Neeson will also probably enjoy it, but the controversial or uncomfortable subject matter may be an issue. But anyone uncomfortable with explicit sex and sexual discussion in films should stay well away from Kinsey.
As for the commentary included on this edition, it’s pretty much standard fare. You have the director talking about the real Kinsey, the actors, the process of getting the movie made, etc. At times he leans heavily towards the technical aspects of making Kinsey.
The Bottom Line: