Kinsey (2004, Bill Condon)
The timing for this movie couldn’t be better. As America drifts back into the clutches of the “moral values” crew, we could all use a dose of the biologist who tried to strip sex down to its basics and in doing so, free Americans from the idea of “normal.”
Liam Neeson and Peter Sarsgaard are both getting Oscar buzz for their portrayals of Dr. Kinsey and his bisexual assistant, respectively. The movie is also getting picketed for being “immoral,” of course–Kinsey himself would have expected no less. However, he would, I think, appreciate the unromantic yet warm-hearted take on his life.
Kinsey doesn’t shy away from raw depictions of sex, in particular one of the most candid, believable homosexual encounters to ever hit film, but what sticks with you is the man’s complete honesty and forthrightness about sexual matters, and yet the movie’s ability to retain a touch of true feeling as it depicts the relationships between the characters.
Laura Linney is winning as Kinsey’s loyal and equally honest wife, Mac, and though Neeson won’t win the Best Actor statue, the Academy could do a lot worse than finally recognizing Sarsgaard, who has done consistently excellent work since Boys Don’t Cry (including this year’s Garden State), and shines here as the assistant who manages to teach Dr. Kinsey himself some new things about sex and love. John Lithgow makes a memorable, touching appearance as Kinsey’s repressive father, as well.
The movie certainly isn’t perfect–it starts and then abandons subconflicts between Kinsey and his son, and then between Kinsey and a fellow professor (Tim Curry, wasted here), hints at a darker side to the man, and then comes to a fairly unsatisfying conclusion in its attempt to end on a light note. But it is a picture that reminds us both that we are biologically driven beings and that love is a beautiful thing, and both of those are lessons that we could use a refresher course in these days.