Kinsey (2004) (R)

Let's talk about sex.
What is so dreadfully unfortunate about "Kinsey" is how good it could have been if it hadn't tried too hard. The problem with biopics is that you have to be shown what made the person famous, and what they were like in real life. "Kinsey" is more interested in the man rather than the work he did, which by all accounts is more interesting. Still, the film doesn't neglect the reason for the title character's fame; but it does make vast assumptions about the man's life that are clearly just there for plot details.
I should make note that because of the nature of the movie, scientific sexual terms will be used here...
"Kinsey" begins with flashbacks and black-and-white, the telltale signs of someone who is trying to impress. We are introduced to Alfred Kinsey (Liam Neeson) as he is in the middle of his great sex census. He has recruited a group of three men and a number of others to help him get the sex history of as many people as possible.
But that's not exactly how it works. "Kinsey" is much more about the man behind the camera, the man himself. So we get to go back and witness Albert's childhood as he grew up Methodist, under the almost tyrannical hand of his father, a preacher.
Now here I have to break because I think the film overplays many of its cards, the most obvious one being the relationship between Albert and his father. Alfred Kinsey (John Lithgow, almost in an exact duplication of his "Footloose" role) is a prude, short and simple. He's a horrible person, a bigot, and a hypocrite. But the film makes him so villainous that it makes us wonder where the real Alfred begins and where this fabrication ends.
Brought up with the idea that sex isn't something you talk about, sex is something you shouldn't know about, and sex is entirely out of the ordinary, Kinsey spends his time believing such myths like if you have a wet dream, you've lost the equivalent to 40 ounces of blood, masturbation will cause blindness and impotency, etc.
Growing up, he defies his father by going to school and getting a degree in biology and then studying wasps. In school he meets his wife Clara McMillen (Laura Linney) and the two get married, still virgins. After many horrible nights of attempting to make love, they go to the doctor and get a very simple explanation for it all.
But sex still is a taboo subject and after the revelation of how wonderful it is, Kinsey, or Prok as he's called by his students, thinks that everyone should be as enlightened as possible. He begins to campaign for a sex education class at the university that he teaches at, but he is shot down by prudes.
So he decides to start his own cult following which demands an education and Kinsey begins to address some of the simplest issues like oral sex, homosexuality, and orgasms.
Because the film is about something revolutionary and because I am of the same opinion that sex should be something that is discussed, you would think that I would like the movie...but not so. It's interesting enough because it deals with a great scientific shift in culture and that is fascinating. What's not acceptable is the daddy issues that Kinsey has that are never fully addressed. Because of his upbringing and because his son is more interested in sports than biology, Kinsey treats his son much like he was treated...but this is never resolved.
Clyde Martin (Peter Sarsgaard) is one of Kinsey's assistants who helps Prok begin his census, starting with homosexuals. Their relationship is odd, and the result of which, though accurate, can be easily predicted; and stands as another huge rift in the movie's emotion power.
The problem that the movie seems to address is love. With all this sex, shouldn't there be a place for love in there somewhere? Love is not measurable, therefore, cannot be recorded; but it is as real as sex. The movie's gap between science and emotion is there on paper; but in reality the film is much more emotion rather than science.
In its pre-graduate-thesis readiness, "Kinsey" clearly spells out the daddy issues and the psychological problems with Kinsey with more ease than if he were a case study. But the man was much more complicated and we rarely see that, though is does show up in a few scenes.
Liam Neeson does a good job, but it's a role that comes across almost vaudevillian.
"Kinsey" loses all credibility because of how it treats its people like puppets instead of with respect. The real Albert Kinsey was a great mind who shifted a nation towards openness, and we just don't understand that by the time the movie is over.

Score: ★★

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