Directed by Bill Condon. USA. 2004.

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Bill Condon’s fine biography picture of Alfred Kinsey, the man who told America what they were doing in the bedroom and everything else revolving around sex, is built around two central performances by Liam Neeson and Laura Linney.  

Neeson does not allow Kinsey to seem too saintly or misunderstood by society, but rather as a man whose normal biological surveys was deemed abnormal by a society so conservative, was it any wonder that it was deemed shocking so soon after a world war. 

The reason why the film has not succeeded in America, apart from on the festival circuit, is due again to the Bible-bashing of the Bush administration inciting another conservative society where sex, violence and other taboos are again dismissed; all the more ironic considering that Kinsey rejected his preacher father for academia in his youth.

For a biopic of two hours, the film is breezy and packs in a lot of information in its running time, characters are introduced and rounded well but some scenes are short drifting from one year to the next leaving the audience with a lot to take in at one time.  But is not that indicative of a character who himself gathered so much information.  

The behaviour of the lead characters sex lives are not put into question, not even by Kinsey, the sight of him shouting upstairs to his wife in bed with his assistant is laughable, but then again the film does have a tongue-in-cheek humour running through it with situations like this - such as when Kinsey’s wife divulges the length of his penis to a doctor as longer than the length of a ruler.  The doctor’s reply, ‘Surprised you didn’t black out’.

The film does make sure men are criticised for their behaviour, while women are held up as vessels of goddess and homely values, even though Kinsey’s findings found that women indulged in pre-marital sex more so than men.  Is this a continued position of women as untouchable in film and not to be criticised indicative of the time where the film takes place?  Think of Katherine Hepburn or Elizabeth Taylor if you will.

Condon is a capable director with characters who have a story to tell because of what they have done, not necessarily not who they are.  He puts the face first using a large amount of close-ups and then pulls back drawing out more of the character making them more recognisable in the crowd. Nevertheless it is not objecitive; Neeson smiles and shouts when appropriate but at times certain relations are not fully extended, such as Kinsey with his son who dismisses academia for sport, the son leaves the table and is never seen again.

A more than decent biopic helped greatly by some fine performances and an excellent ensemble cast, for two hours it flies by and will certainly enlighten you about a man in America’s history who should be remembered.

Jamie Garwood
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