Kinsey (2004)

Film review: Kinsey (2004), directed by Bill Condon

Quills might not have been a biopic, but Kinsey certainly is. Alfred Kinsey is a boy growing up in a very religious family. His father (John Lithgow) is a preacher and is very strict. As young Alfred grows up, he finally decides to stand up to his father, and instead of studying to become a preacher himself, decides to take up zoology, eventually taking up a teaching position at the university.

Prok, short for Professor Kinsey (Liam Neeson), meets the lovely Clara McMillen (Laura Linney), fall in love and eventually marry.

Everything would potentially have been “and they lived happily ever after”, but after hearing from some students who are very unsure about sex, he realises just how lacking sex education is. The mainstay of the course run by a colleague (Tim Curry) is to teach abstinence – but what good is that? People have sex, you can’t get away from that. The problem is, “is this normal?” is what everyone is asking, and saying “don’t have sex!” isn’t the solution – not if you are a newly married couple and don’t really know how to do things.

So Kinsey decides to run his own course, which takes off like a rocket. Everyone wants to be in it. The head teacher (Oliver Platt) might have some reservations initially, but it’s a popular course, after all … Then there’s the idea of having a huge study in order to find out what’s normal and what isn’t, by asking people all over the USA about their sexual habits and then putting it into a huge report – The Kinsey Report.

Together with a team of colleagues (Chris O’Donnell, Peter Sarsgaard and Timothy Hutton), Prok and his studies become infamous, and while it’s very important work they were doing, they’re not exactly loved for doing it. Marriages are rocky or even fall apart, partners are swapped and it’s all very messy … but as a film, it’s brilliant.

The Kinsey Report has been mentioned in my psychology course books, and I had heard of the movie before, so it was really fascinating to find out more about it, what it was and how much controversy it caused. Perhaps because of it, nowadays, we know a lot more about human sexuality and – yes, what is and isn’t to be considered “normal”. I’d say amongst the things that wouldn’t be “normal” is the creepy guy toward the end who has written down every sexual encounter ever and who has slept with far too many humans, animals and goodness knows what else. Eww.

It was nice to see Peter Sarsgaard again, as he was all covered up in grotesque makeup in Green Lantern. Good actor, and I have to admit I had no wishes to see every little bit of him. Hrm. The funny thing is, he’s openly bisexual in the film, and if you read his IMDb board, it’s ripe with people questioning his sexuality because he’s a bit effeminate on film.

Seriously, John Barrowman was turned down for playing the leading homosexual man on Will & Grace because he was “too straight” – to anyone who’s seen a show with him as a guest, he’s “gayer than a treeful of monkeys”. Instead, they hired Eric McCormack, who is straight. In the same vein, Sean Hayes (“just Jack!” *dramatic pose*) has refused to ever comment on his sexuality, because he doesn’t want it to cloud people’s judgements on his performances, which I totally respect him for. Will he be judged differently because he plays a (super)gay character if he’s straight, or will he not get to play straight parts if he’s gay? Surely he should be judged on acting capabilities alone, not with whom he chooses to sleep with in his off-screen life?

Have run a bit off topic here, sorry.

Kinsey is a very interesting film, a biopic that really isn’t dull but shows that research isn’t necessarily glamorous, but lots and lots of hard work and uncomfortable questions. Thumbs up! 4 out of 5 illicit affairs.

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