Anthony's Film Review
A good biographical film about a man who challenges our way of thinking...
If one thing has changed much in the 20th century, it is society's perspective on human sexuality. One may think of people like Hugh Hefner and Larry Flynt who promote sexual freedom through their famous magazines. There is also Professor Alfred Kinsey of Indiana University, whose revolutionary books on human sexuality, starting with one on male sexual behavior printed in 1947, changed the way people look at sex. I, like some people, assumed that people in the first half of the 20th century were mostly squeamish about any form of sex. That may be true sometimes, but I was surprised to learn from this film that the forms of sex they practice back then were virtually no different from the sexual practices we know of today. The difference, obviously, has to do with the rigidity of societal norms.
Professor Kinsey, a.k.a. "Prok" even to his wife Clara, had an interest in biology and spent some time studying gall wasps. He and Clara attempt to have sex for the first time after getting married, but they find themselves very frustrated. They do not know how the act is performed. As a result, they receive counseling from a sex therapist.
Kinsey soon finds himself trying to be a therapist when students come to him for sexual advice. There is not too much information on the subject as Kinsey finds out. As a scientist, he knows that there must be answers somewhere. That is when he takes the opportunity of a lifetime: finding out about sex as nobody had really done before.
He approaches the subject with the utmost objectivity. Sex is a topic that one can easily have feelings about. Kinsey knows that. It is amazing to see him talk about the subject and literally disregard all societal norms that make only monogamous heterosexual sex acceptable. That, along with his techniques to relax the people he interviews, helps him get to the truth.
His years of research involve interviewing people from all over the United States with the help of his research team. The team asks the same series of 200+ questions to everyone they meet. With a large collection of sexual histories, Kinsey is able to produce a book about male sexuality that puts the subject in a whole new light.
Not surprisingly, Kinsey faces much opposition. The first book may be a sensational bestseller, but when his follow-up book on female sexuality hit the bookshelves, many saw it as a threat to womanhood. There is additional outcry from religious figures. All Kinsey would do is stick with his guns, arguing that the sexual behavior he has reported is everywhere. He also challenges the fact that different states in the country don't forbid the same sexual practices. Oral sex even in marriage was banned in some states while others seriously targeted homosexuals.
My only complaint with this film is that it does not talk about the last part of his life and the last few books he published. We just know that he'll proceed to a book about sexual behavior in criminals. It still ended nicely with Kinsey realizing what is important to him that science cannot measure.
Liam Neeson gives a nice performance as Kinsey. I also like John Lithgow as Kinsey's father, a man who is religiously devout yet could open up to Kinsey just as well as all of his other interviewees. The rest of the cast is just as good, including Tim Curry as a professor of a hygiene class promoting abstinence. These actors help make the film both engrossing and enlightening about sexuality in the early 20th century.
The film does contain plenty of explicit content, including some depictions of masturbation and a brief homosexual kissing scene. Other than that, Kinsey is a film that is well made for the same reasons other biographical films deserve praise. It tells about a person who is strong and does not back down in the face of opposition. It is also about someone who had a real positive impact on society in the long run. For those of you who like the topic of sex, you have Alfred Kinsey to thank for helping people see it with an open mind.
For more information about Kinsey, visit the Internet Movie Database.