*** Official KINSEY Review Thread

Discussion in 'Movies' started by Quentin, Nov 24, 2004.

  1. Quentin

    Quentin Cinematographer

    Feb 4, 2002
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    Los Angeles
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    Quentin H
    One of three big indies that opens up this weekend (Sideways and Neverland being the others) is Kinsey.

    Anyone see it?

    I thought there were some very strong performances here - Neeson, Saarsgard, and Linney being the standouts. But, the film as a whole felt very cold to me. Nothing ever reaches out and grabs me and pulls me in.

    There are some great moments - I won't spoil them until a discussion thread comes up - but, I didn't feel they amounted to much.

    I was really hoping that scene in the trailer with Saarsgard yelling how a study like this can "cut you wide open," would be the key to the theme here - how the emotions of sex cannot be "studied" like the biology and they are hopelessly intertwined. There is a little of that here, but it didn't feel like a strong theme.

    Come to think of it, what IS the theme? What is this movie about (other than the recounting of his life)? What does it want me to think and/or feel? I just wondered what Condon was wanting to say here...
  2. DeeF

    DeeF Screenwriter

    Jun 19, 2002
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    Kinsey is hugely disappointing, a conventional narrative devoid of insight or creativity. I actually wondered if it had been made for Showtime, because it has that TV movie kind of sensibility. It does have some explicit scenes, some good male nudity (Peter Sarsgaard) and so it titillates, which is why I suspect most of the audience was there. I wondered if some of its "ordinariness" was intentional, as an homage of sorts to this kind of movie, a Cinemascope biography from the 50s. But I found Bill Condon's previous effort, Gods and Monsters to be similarly conventional. In both movies, the best moment belongs to Lynn Redgrave -- here she appears at the very end, in a touching scene. The other actors are fine, though fatally underused as Liam Neeson is overused. More money has seemingly been spent on "fifties" looks, makeup, hair and clothes, and not enough time on developing a script with a point.

    Kinsey seemed to make a big mistake, though this conclusion may come from hindsight. Sexual histories MUST contain information about the feelings involved. I personally don't believe that sex and its emotional repercussions can be divided. Even in our pre-civilized state, the ancestral environment, humans were humans, and probably had similar feelings of love, attachment, jealousy, rage, etc., connected with sexual partnering. There is a disclaimer in the movie toward the end, as Kinsey answers his assistant concerning "love," "Love isn't measurable, and without measurements there is no science."

    I don't mind the disclaimer, but I think it was excusing the quality of the rest of the movie, by suggesting that because Kinsey was clinical, so is the movie. No, the movie should be dramatic. I don't think they dramatized the material at all well.

    But also, I think Kinsey himself didn't understand that his research was actually titillating to him and to his assistants, that it was altering their regular sexual inclinations. There may have been people who contributed to the surveys who completely fabricated their answers. Kinsey tried to allow for this, by creating trick questions, but I still wonder how accurate were his data. It is telling, however, that his first book, about male sexuality, was critically praised, but his second, about female sexuality, created a scandal.

    Did Kinsey really achieve anything? Yes, and no. I do believe his studies were/are some scientific value, but I don't believe he had much sociological impact (as the end of the movie would have you believe) -- it was the next generation, complete with The Pill, which fostered the sexual revolution. But then, perhaps Kinsey was an unknowing participant in modernization of outmoded moral values.
  3. Robert Crawford

    Robert Crawford Moderator

    Dec 9, 1998
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    This thread is now the Official Review Thread for "Kinsey". Please post all HTF member reviews in this thread.

    Any other comments, links to other reviews, or discussion items will be deleted from this thread without warning!

    If you need to discuss those type of issues then I have designated an Official Discussion Thread.

  4. Michael Reuben

    Michael Reuben Studio Mogul

    Feb 12, 1998
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    Copied from the 2004 Alternative Thread; written on Nov. 15, 2004:

    There's already controversy over the accuracy of the film's portrayal of sex research pioneer Alfred Kinsey, and that's not surprising. Kinsey was probably more responsible than anyone (including Hugh Hefner) for the so-called sexual revolution of late 20th century America. One's attitude toward Kinsey is very much a product of how one feels about that trend. What should not be controversial is the qualiy of writer-director Bill Condon's film, which is superbly crafted and brilliantly performed.

    Condon doesn't make the mistake of trying to avoid bio-pic cliches -- on the contrary, he embraces them and makes them work to his advantage. His subject was a man who interviewed thousands of people about their sexual histories; so Condon opens the film with Kinsey being interviewed by several of his assistants as a training exercise. It's an efficient narrative device that, coupled with flashbacks, very quickly gives us a portrait of Kinsey as he was just beginning the landmark studies of sexual behavior that, for better or worse, are his legacy.

    Liam Neeson's portrayal of Kinsey is extraordinary. It may suffer during awards season, because Neeson doesn't hesitate to make the audience uncomfortable. There's something unsettling in the single-minded devotion of this fundamentally shy individual to digging out the most intimate secrets in people's lives -- his own and everyone else's. In his own way, Kinsey was as rigorous, uncompromising and ultimately insensitive as the puritanical father (played by John Lithgow) against whom he rebelled. There is a key scene in the latter part of the film where Kinsey and an assistant interview a voracious sexual explorer played by William Sadler, who, like Kinsey, is obsessed with documenting his explorations. When it emerges that those explorations included pedophilia, Kinsey's assistant, despite all the training in objectivity and detachment, leaves the room in disgust. But Kinsey remains and listens. The scene is the film's way of showing that scientific detachment has its perils.

    Of equal caliber is Laura Linney's potrayal of Clara Kinsey, who is, if anything, an even more complicated character than her husband. In scene after scene, Neeson and Linney draw you into the inner world of what had to be one of the more unusual marriages of its time. The scene where Kinsey confesses a homosexual encounter with one of his assistants (another exceptional portrayal by Peter Sarsgaard) is equal parts moving and disturbing. The later scene where Clara herself has an open fling with the same assistant is both disturbing and very funny. It takes an extraordinary cast and a very sure directorial hand to get away with this material and not lose the audience.

    Kinsey's landmark 1948 publication Sexual Behavior in the Human Male made him a household name, and the film deftly covers that development (complete with Cole Porter lyrics!) and the inevitable backlash that followed. Given the national debate about "values" in which we are now engaged, the film actually seems more timely than perhaps it did when the project was first conceived. There is no doubt where the film's sympathies lie -- Kinsey's chief nemesis on the faculty at Indiana University is played by Tim Curry as a repressive buffoon (which is pretty funny if you remember him as Frank 'N' Furter) -- and the film could easily become a contemporary lightning rod. But even if one disapproves of Kinsey, the bell that he rang can't be unrung. As he says in the film, there is an enormous gap between what people imagine sexual experience to be and what it is, and the film provides numerous examples. (Interview question to a couple: "How many sexual positions have you tried?" Answer: "There's more than one?") One only has to look at contemporary popular culture to realize that perception today is very different.

    The film's production values are extraordinary given the limited budget. The film has a rich period look that transports you back into an era of much greater formality and reserve. The cinematography by Frederick Elmes (whose work I always enjoy) casts an odd kind of serenity over scene after scene in which mighty forces are churning just under the surface.

    As an aside: I'd love to know how they got some of these scenes past the MPAA. I can't remember a recent film from a major studio that had so much male full frontal nudity. The scene with Kinsey lecturing to a room full of students shocked by the explicit photographs he's projecting in giant enlargements is almost guaranteed to have people in the theater audience squirming. But writer-director Condon is smart enough to relieve the tension with a joke, which I won't spoil here.

    Further comments in the official discussion thread.

  5. Adam_S

    Adam_S Producer

    Feb 8, 2001
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    [​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG] (out of four)

    This was an outstanding and well made film. I'd put it about on the level with De-Lovely (which I thoroughly enjoyed). Laura Linney and Peter Sarsgaard give outstanding performances , and Liam Neeson is marvelous. It played very much as a comedy in my audience, which I think was a good thing, it kept the audience in with the film. But at the same time if we only laugh at sexual mores and misinformation of the past it makes it easy for us to contain them within the past, to set ourselves outside and superior to the past. This conceals from us how little (and disproportionately magnifying how much) things have changed--the fact that in 50-60 years, no comprehensive study of human sexuality has been accomplished should be a powerful point. That the Kinsey institute has been defanged for a long time should be an equally strong point when we reflect upon our modern position in relation to this film.

    Look no further than the Kinsey discourse in the press surrounding this release. The reporters are always certain to mention that Kinsey's methods were deeply flawed and biased that he and none of his assisstants were completely impartial and that he was trying to fester social revolution--the quiet subtextual message of all this is effectively telling us that we should remember not to take this man or his conclusions to seriously because they are dangerous Or look how all the discourse around the film's release has mentioned the 'monstrous pedophile Kinsey protected.' It is astonishing that the character has been labeled a pedophile and then dismissed. No one bothered mentioning that the 900 preadolescents he had intercourse with was only 10% of the 9000+ total number of people he had intercourse with. Yes, his actions with children accurately define him as the most 'monstrous' of criminals in our society--pedophile--but at the time his actions with men, women, animals, family etc were also considered monstrous (most of it still is to most people); the degree of monstrosity was what was different. This was a man who was consumed and probably destroyed by sex; nothing else in his life mattered but the pursuit of sex in every possible form. The film presents him as an interesting foil for Kinsey, they are equally relentless, domineering, and obsessed in their pursuit of sex. Dismissing him with the simple label of pedophile makes the comparison to Kinsey disapear. An interesting question to ponder might be how would the monstrous pedophile be treated in the discourse surrounding the film if he had been a woman?

  6. Dave Hackman

    Dave Hackman Stunt Coordinator

    Jan 11, 2000
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    Obi-Wan Kenobi’s mentor (Liam Neeson) wields his mighty saber in and out of his wife portrayed by Laura Linney and his apprentice Peter Sarsgaard. Both enlist in the doctor’s obsessive desire to bring forth a sexual awareness that till then was only acquired through experience or word of mouth. What starts off as a simple questionnaire turns into dare I say a scientology step by step approach of auditing that revels all the sexual information from the subject at hand. There are plenty of obstacles to provide filler such as family issues, colleague quarrels, some funding troubles and my personal favorite heath problems.

    Neeson’s voice sounds good giving lectures and this was critical because his character really likes to talk. Laura Linney delivers a lovely performance and really brought a sense of balance to the film. Peter is quite good as a # 3 and his ability to play both sides of the sexual spectrum makes his character really come to life.

    This movie felt a little like JFK with a sexual theme. Both engaging and entertaining till the end. Well worth a trip to the theater.

  7. Edwin Pereyra

    Edwin Pereyra Producer

    Oct 26, 1998
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    For all the talk Kinsey is getting about its explicit sexual content, it pales in comparison to Closer. Here, the sexual material is handled in a textbook manner devoid of eroticism and exploitation but full of humor. The sexual lingo and situations are clinical rather than provocative.

    Bill Condon's Kinsey is about the life of Dr. Alfred Kinsey who pioneered the study of human sexual behavior in the U.S. in the 1940’s. Some of the film’s reviews criticize Kinsey’s methodology in conducting his research, his biases, and whether or not he made any contributions to science. Certainly, these are elements important in discussing the subject in question but it is in no way relevant in discussing the cinematic merits of the film.

    For me, the film Kinsey is a portrait of a man who, in the end, becomes so obsessed about his research project that he fails to look beyond its scientific aspects. This ultimately becomes his downfall. This is evident in the discussions around the dinner table with his children about their own sexual practices, where he allowed his staff to engage in wife swapping all for the benefit of his research and when Dr. Kinsey finally meets his match in a man who chronicles his own sexual endeavors, which includes pedophilia.

    Dr. Kinsey likes to talk about sex and gather as much information as he can about it. But after shocking an entire nation about his findings on a subject that was formerly taboo for public discussion, it was ready to move on. He, on the other hand, was not ready to end it yet and would like to take his research further into the darker corners of sexual perversion where no one really seems to care anymore after what first appears to be an intellectual, inquisitive and enjoyable ride.

    Liam Neeson and Laura Linney are very good in their respective roles as Dr. Kinsey and his very supportive wife. Peter Sarsgaard, Chris O’Donnell and Timothy Hutton as Dr. Kinsey’s research staff, John Lithgow as his father and Tim Curry and Oliver Platt as Kinsey’s academic colleagues round out a very talented supporting cast.

  8. Larry Sutliff

    Larry Sutliff Cinematographer

    Jun 17, 2000
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    I agree with all of the assesments of this film as "cold", something that I also found of Condon's other acclaimed film, GODS AND MONSTERS(a film which has a subject matter of which I have more affinity). And yet it's always watchable. Despite the problems with the script, there is no denying the great performances, the wonderful cinematography, and the immense entertainment value of much of this film.

    [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] 1/2 out of [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]

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