on November 12, 2004 by Kevin Courrier
"Kinsey" is a big, glossy pop biography of the legendary entomologist Dr. Alfred Kinsey (Liam Neeson), who in post-war America wrote a radical landmark study of human sexual behavior. By treating sex as a biological phenomenon rather than an instinct dictated by morality, Kinsey set the stage for the Sexual Revolution of the '60s. The film, however, isn't about to start any revolutions, even though (in its own superficial way) it remains reasonably engaging.

Writer/director Bill Condon ("Gods and Monsters") doesn't delve too deeply into the turbulent aspects of Kinsey's research because he sees Kinsey basically as the savior of sex in a repressed, puritanical culture. Although Condon's not entirely wrong, he turns the picture into a cartoon version of the sexual wars with Liam Neeson playing Kinsey as if he's doing a reprise of Oskar Schindler. When Kinsey and his associates start interviewing Americans about their sexual habits and fantasies, the tone has an element of camp, so that we laugh at their frankness rather than consider the discomfort they feel in revealing themselves. By the time Kinsey hits a gay bar, where everyone is happily expressing themselves, we start to wonder what decade we're in.

While most of the performers are caricatured, especially John Lithgow as Kinsey's deeply repressed father and Tim Curry, who is miscast as a morality professor, there are others who do add some gravity to the picture. Laura Linney, as Kinsey's scientific partner and wife, brings a supple warmth to the role without sacrificing any of her idiosyncrasies. As one of Kinsey's bisexual assistants, Peter Sarsgaard has a beautifully balanced and sane understanding of his own sexual orientation.

Although "Kinsey" touches on the professor's own bisexuality, it doesn't address--or dispute--other touchy subjects like the allegations of pedophilia. For all its claims of delving into the messiness of human sexuality, "Kinsey" somehow manages to keep its hands clean. Starring Liam Neeson, Laura Linney, Peter Sarsgaard, John Lithgow and Timothy Hutton. Directed and written by Bill Condon. Produced by Gail Mutrux. A Fox Searchlight release. Drama. Rated R for pervasive sexual content, including some graphic images and descriptions. Running time: 118 min

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