A review of “Kinsey” by Jeanne Aufmuth

 

Stars: *** 1/2

Rating: R for graphic language, images and nudity

Run Time: 1 hour, 58 minutes

 

 

Liam Neeson commands the screen in this seat-squirmingly frank biopic of America’s most infamous sexual behaviorist.

Alfred Kinsey (Neeson) wasn’t your average researcher.  He cut his teeth on the study of gall wasps, going to dutiful lengths to detail their unusual reproductive habits and private maturations. Kinsey was a world-class nerd who first and foremost believed in himself.

The nerd gets the girl when Clara (Laura Linney) enters Kinsey’s life as an intellectual foil and unlikely bedfellow. The pair seeks professional help for intimacy issues from which springs a growing obsession with the art of sexology; masturbation, wet dreams, and orgasms. 

With Clara’s support Kinsey begins collecting sexual histories instead of cynipidae. He evolves into the nation’s boldest chronicler of human sexual behavior, ultimately publishing such bestsellers as Sexual Behavior in the Human Male.  

With the aid of student researchers Dr. Kinsey interviews thousands of willing subjects. Friend and colleague Clyde Martin (Peter Sarsgaard) has a profound impact on his life’s work as Kinsey mentors him as a confidant and lover.

Shattering taboos and stereotypes is the crux of this candid and beautifully crafted film.  Bill Condon (Gods and Monsters) directs with subtle humor as the foundation for traditionally uncomfortable issues.  Niggling flaw is the downside to Kinsey’s research, a dark place that isn’t accorded sufficient treatment.

Candid visuals and frank carnal discourse join forces with clever montages and hilarious but insightful interviews (of which there were ultimately over 18,000). Scenes depicting Kinsey’s marriage course at Indiana University circa 1938 are classics.  

Neeson is lovely as the confident Kinsey and deserves praise for imbuing his good doctor with stubborn charm and relentless enthusiasm.  Sarsgaard practically steals the show as he worms his way into the Kinseys’ marriage and beyond.

Kinsey focuses on events from the 1930s through 50s but its commentary on America’s sexual health is thoroughly relevant to today. Contemporary moral guardians may be outraged, but like it or not sex is here to stay.