Directed by Bill Condon.
Written by Bill Condon.
Starring Liam Neeson, Laura Linney, Peter Sarsgaard and Chris
Release Year: 2004
Review Date: 12/15/04
Along with my buddy Yac and Ross "Stinger!"
Stephenson, I took in the new drama "Kinsey", about the leading
sexologist of the 20th century.
Well, he might not have been the leading
one, but he certainly was one of the first prominent ones in this
country. Soon after The Great Depression, Alfred Kinsey (Liam
Neeson), having a tough time at that whole sex thing early in his
marriage to Clara "Mac" McMillan (Laura Linney), seeks counseling
for their sexual problems...and then, the light bulb goes on over
his head--why not ask people about their sexual habits in order to
teach others how to explore their own sexuality? With the help
of a small team of researchers (played by Peter Sarsgaard, Chris
O'Donnell and Timothy Hutton), Kinsey goes about the learning
process while teaching a new class at Indiana University about just
what this whole sex thing is all about. Along the way, he
learns a lot about himself, his family, and most importantly, the
taboos of the average American citizen's sex life.
Those that know me know that I generally
despise American films' depiction of sex and everything related to
it; things never look quite right, or sound quite right, or are
treated like everyone in the audience is 17 years old. So,
"Kinsey" avoids much of this by not giving us much actual sex but
instead giving us frank sexual conversation, and this works to the
film's advantage when everything seems like it is the clumsiest
thing in the world to Kinsey's mostly stunned audiences. It's
fun, for example, watching one of his classes react to a simple shot
of a penis entering a vagina, because director Bill Condon ("Gods
and Monsters") plays it up by constantly cutting to shots of shocked
onlookers. How staid were the 1940s and 50s? From the
looks of it, pretty staid, at least in terms of a public comfort
level. Scenes involved the researchers learning from their
subjects are equally well done; how would you answer more than 200
questions about your sexuality and your preferred positions and your
interest in porking local cattle?? Maybe the most twisted
scene in the movie--where Kinsey and his family discuss sexual
habits over dinner--is its most provocative: what if your dad
was the country's leading authority on sexual statistical sampling?
All of this happens in the film's first
hour, as Kinsey builds to national prominence and on a personal
level figures out his own sexual interests. Neeson is, as
usual, excellent; his Kinsey is awkward and linguistically pointed,
and this gives the film much unintentional intentional humor (if
that makes any sense). His wordplay comes across as overly
scripted, but with Neeson in this role one assumes he is capturing
the tooly, scientific nature of the man he is portraying and it
makes for a fun spectacle to watch Neeson work, early on at least.
Linney, as Kinsey's wife, is also as reliable as always; you can
almost feel yourself smiling every time Linney breaks out her
signature grin. The support from characters played by Oliver
Platt, Hutton, O'Donnell and Sarsgaard is good enough; a super cameo
by Bill Sadler ("Die Hard 2") as a sexually deviant subject late in
the film will keep you from falling asleep...
...oh yeah, which is the main problem with
"Kinsey" after the publication of the author's book on the American
male's sexual tendencies more than midway through the movie--it's
unbeLIEVably boring after this sequence. The kind of boring
where you start to notice things like other audience members'
breathing habits, or what you have to do at work the next day, or
that girl working behind the concession counter. The sex talk
wears out its welcome, and then in a no-brainer, everyone starts
sleeping with everyone else, and you find yourself not caring.
We get the requisite age makeup for Neeson and Linney, we get the
tying of loose ends in the form of Kinsey's bad relationship with
his father (played by John Lithgow; where have YOU been?), we get
Kinsey fading from grace.
It leaves you with a "let's get the hell out
of this theater right now" ending to a film that for a while is
invigorating stuff. "Kinsey" would have been better served as
a 100-minute film that ended on a high, rather than a 120-minute
film that limps to the finish line...but, directors with total
control seem to make the decision to give us too much time and again
these days. You won't feel too bad dropping $6 on this one,
Comments? Drop me a line at
Bellview Rating System:
"Opening Weekend": This is
the highest rating a movie can receive. Reserved for movies that
exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development,
setting...or Salma Hayek. Not necessarily in that order.
"$X.XX Show": This price
changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently,
it is the $9.50 Show. While not technically perfect, this is a
movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.
"Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca",
but you'll have a great time watching. The $9.50 Show won't win any
Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see
"Matinee": An average movie
that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.
Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about
yourself. A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave
the theater saying "That wasn't too bad...man, did you see that
Lakers game last night?"
"Rental": This rating
indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your
friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one." Mostly forgettable, you
couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to
watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the
video store was out of copies of "Ronin." If you can, see this
movie for free. This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a
"Hard Vice": This rating is
the bottom of the barrel. A movie that only six other human beings
have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen. A Shannon
Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every
one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a
movie. Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or
"Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this
movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!
(Warning: strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard