A look at the life of Alfred Kinsey, a pioneer in the area of human sexuality research, whose 1948 publication "Sexual Behavior in the Human Male" was one of the first recorded works that saw science address sexual behavior.
Called Prok as an adult (short for Professor Kinsey), Alfred Kinsey has been interested in biology since he was a child growing up in the early twentieth century, despite the criticisms of such being nonsense from his overbearing and devoutly Christian father, professor Alfred Seguine Kinsey. Prok goes on to become a biology professor at Indiana University, initially focusing on the study of gall wasps. But those studies in combination with questions from his students, coming to terms with the needs of sex with his own wife, a former student of his named Clara McMillen (who he calls Mac), and what he sees as the gross misinformation on the subject currently within popular belief makes him change his focus to human sexuality. Many of those gross untruths - as he sees them - are that oral sex and masturbation cause a slew of maladies, which are perpetuated by what is presented in the university's hygiene class taught by Professor Thurman Rice. With the approval of faculty head Herman ... Written by
Despite containing relatively few depictions of sexual behavior, the MPAA gave the movie the R rating for all the conversations about sex and verbal descriptions of sexual acts. However, according to director Bill Condon, the MPAA members thanked him afterwards, because they had found the movie very educational nevertheless. See more »
The chronology of the film suggests that the publication of a "new book" by Alfred Kinsey, The Origin of Higher Categories in Cynips, the appointment of Herman Wells as the president of Indiana University, and the showing of the "hygiene" film Know for Sure all occurred within a relatively short period of time. However, Kinsey published the book in question in 1935, Wells was not appointed as president until 1937 (interim) or 1938, and the film was not released until 1941. See more »
Final Interview Subject:
[to Kinsey about her lesbianism]
After I read your book I realized how many other women were in the same situation. I mustered the courage to talk to my friend and she told me, to my suprise, that the feelings were mutual.
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At the end of the film (following the main cast credits), a montage featuring Kinsey Institute footage of the mating habits of various animals is accompanied by "Fever" by Little Willie John. See more »
Writer/Director Bill Condon does a thoroughly detailed, fascinating study of the life of famed sex researcher Alfred Kinsey in the drama, Kinsey. What would on surface seem unfilmable is done with great sensitivity and honesty.
Condon knows how to tell stories about real people (Gods and Monsters), and here is a life filled with curiosity and far reaching accomplishment.
Raised in a repressed family dominated by a stern father, Kinsey is portrayed as an isolated teen who rebels against not only his father, but against sexual convention. As a science instructor in college, he meets a student who becomes his wife. As other students look more and more to him for sexual advice, his original interest in insect studies changes to sex adviser and ultimately sex researcher. His team of assistants and even their wives become involved in the research. As Kinsey's study requires sample interviews across the country, a diverse, amazing discovery of sexual habits and statistics are revealed. The study ultimately becomes published in a groundbreaking best seller amid a swell of damnation from the public.
Condon interweaves the science with the human element in a very intelligent screenplay. It is remarkable that such a coherent storyline emerges from a multitude of scientific and news sources. The movie also says a lot about the state of the country at a time in mid twentieth century America when the Red Scare was in full swing and the populace was guided by the morals and sensibilities of its time. Kinsey's relationship with his wife is the thread that ties the film together thematically. She essentially becomes the barometer for his work and his shortcomings. Here is a man who was brilliant and at the same time fallible.
There is no epilogue at film's end as might be expected for a biography, but it is a nice touch for a film that tries to approach its subject with freshness and reverence. The set design and costumes are all authentic in period flavor, but the film seems to be focused not on marking the precise year but depicting an era or time. Do stay for the amusing end credits which show a veritable Noah's Ark of animals in their glory.
Liam Neeson is very good as the obsessed scientist who tries to conduct meaningful, quantifiable research while reconciling the emotional toll on his marriage and his friendships. Laura Linney is in fine form as the supportive wife who observes and then participates in her husband's venture.
As his research assistants, Timothy Hutton, Chris O'Donnell, and Peter Sarsgaard round out a very strong ensemble cast. In fact, these fine actors are almost wasted in supporting roles. John Lithgow is pitch perfect as Kinsey's cruel, insensitive father. There is a nice, near cameo appearance by Lynn Redgrave (Gods and Monsters) as the last interview of Kinsey, and she resonates in her brief appearance.
In keeping with the subject matter, there is graphic dialogue and sexual depictions, but there is nothing exploitive or without narrative purpose here. It is interesting to note that this film is coming on the heels of a moralistic backlash of media content and permissiveness. By showing how well-intended human studies into formerly taboo subjects helped to enlighten and reexamine human behavior, Kinsey proves to be the right film for the right time.
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