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    The prof of boff

    "Kinsey," like the pioneering sex researcher profiled in it, reduces its subject to a bit of a dry academic exercise.


    Six years ago writer/director Bill Condon fashioned a highly speculative account of the waning days of iconographic filmmaker James Whale, the man who made "Frankenstein." "Gods and Monsters" was deftly made and finely acted but the film failed to paint a fascinating portrait of the multi-talented Whale, a relatively obscure subject for a movie by conventional standards.

    Written and directed by: Bill Condon.
    Cast: Liam Neeson, Laura Linney, Chris O'Donnell, Peter Sarsgaard, Timothy Hutton, John Lithgow, Tim Curry, Oliver Platt, Dylan Baker, Julianne Nicholson.
    Cinematography: Frederick Elmes.
    Edited by: Virginia Katz.

    Related links: Official site | All of David N. Butterworth's reviews at Rotten Tomatoes
    Condon's new film "Kinsey" is a very similar proposition.

    While earnest and informative in nature, this biopic of the celebrated sexologist Dr. Alfred Kinsey (played by Liam Neeson in a bowtie) is neither captivating nor compelling. Like bad sex, you just sort of lie there thinking about something else, trying to distance yourself from another bent on self-expression.

    Kinsey revolutionized the way we think, feel, and talk about sex with his controversial 1948 study "Sexual Behavior in the Human Male." He followed it up five years later with a second bestseller, "Sexual Behavior in the Human Female." Kinsey's research was shocking in its day partly because of its explicitness and partly because until then nobody had really examined human sexuality to any significant degree. Kinsey strove to break down barriers and taboos and social conventions by interviewing thousands of Americans to determine what constituted "normal sexual behavior."

    Prior to this work, Kinsey had studied and collected over one million specimens of gall wasps, an insect possessing the peculiar characteristic that, like humans, no two are alike. This gave Kinsey the singular advantage of being able to approach his two-legged subjects with a detachment that eliminated any kind of prurient interest on his part.

    Told mostly via flashbacks, the film offers up a straight-laced historical account of how Kinsey, an Indiana University professor, first got interested in his subject matter. It chronicles the former zoologist's upbringing at the hand of his strict preacher father (John Lithgow), how he met and married his wife Clara McMillen (Laura Linney, typically strong), and garnered a reputation as the "Sex Doctor" when young couples began seeking his advice. Condon flip-flops these chronological scenes with sequences of Kinsey's research assistants (played by Chris O'Donnell, Timothy Hutton, and the ubiquitous Peter Sarsgaard) conducting interviews with individuals from all walks of life about their sex habits, including one with Kinsey himself.

    As with anyone who has dedicated their life to the collecting and cataloguing of things, be it bugs or sexual positions, Kinsey exhibited an obsessive-compulsive type personality that made social discourse exhausting (his dinner time patter, for example, was particularly difficult to digest). Unfortunately for the film — and no doubt unintended by the director — Kinsey's intense, matter-of-fact focus on male and female body parts and the varying ways in which to engage them becomes silly after a while, almost laughable in its single-mindedness.

    The guy was smart, a genius maybe, and certainly groundbreaking in his pursuits (including his openness to embark on a homosexual relationship while married), but he was also pretty weird and that fact detracts from the seriousness of the piece.

    There's a lot of explicit talk in "Kinsey" the film — references to masturbation, fornication, stimulation, copulation, menstruation, penetration — but the sad fact about Kinsey the man is that by failing to recognize love, an overreaching human emotion clearly absent from his research, he considered it to be the dirtiest word of all.

    NOVEMBER 29, 2004

    Reader comments on Kinsey:

  • Love cannot be measured   from Charlie, Dec 12, 2004
  • kinsey was a disappointment   from Mataachi, Jan 10, 2006

  • Post a comment on "Kinsey"