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Review byMatthew Turner3/03/2005

Four out of Five stars
Running time: 118 mins

Intelligent, thought-provoking and absorbing biopic, brilliantly written and directed by Bill Condon and featuring terrific performances from its strong cast.

Writer-director Bill Condon won the Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay with his previous film, Gods and Monsters, a biopic of Frankenstein director James Whale. His latest film, Kinsey, is another biopic of an equally complex man, Professor Alfred Kinsey, whose hugely controversial 1948 book Sexual Behaviour in the Human Male precipitated the sexual revolution and changed the way we think about sex.

Biopic Of Famous Professor

Considered a front-runner for the Oscars, it was cruelly robbed when the nominations were announced, securing only a deserved Best Supporting Actress nomination for Laura Linney. However, Best Picture nomination or no, it remains a hugely enjoyable film and the best of the recent biopics, thanks to an intelligent script and exceptional performances throughout.

Liam Neeson (no stranger to biopics after Michael Collins and Schindler’s List) plays Professor Alfred Kinsey, affectionately nick-named “Prok” by his students at Indiana University, where he teaches zoology.

A combination of an awkward wedding night with his wife Clara (Laura Linney) and some questions from students seeking advice about sex alerts Kinsey to the astonishing dearth of scientific data on human sexual behaviour, so he recruits a team of researchers (including Timothy Hutton, Peter Sarsgaard and Chris O’Donnell) and together they refine an interviewing technique that will allow their subjects to speak intimately about sex.

Kinsey had devoted the early part of his career to collecting data on gall wasps - he had over a million specimens, from which he deduced that there were no abnormal wasps, only individual creatures to be catalogued and studied.

Liam Neeson is brilliantly cast and gives a career-best performance as Kinsey, his towering physicality setting him apart from his students and colleagues and highlighting his emotional isolation. He's matched by Laura Linney, who is both convincing and moving as Clara, sharing Kinsey’s liberal views on sexuality and supporting him even when his behaviour would drive most people to distraction.

Excellent Support Cast

The supporting cast are all excellent, but there are two stand-outs: Peter Skarsgaard (as Clyde Martin, Kinsey’s loyal researcher, who seduces both Kinsey and his wife and whose character gives some clue as to the size of the can of worms Kinsey’s research is about to open) and John Lithgow as Kinsey’s ultra-religious, puritanical father, whose own interview with his son provides one of the film’s best scenes.

The film has an impressive structure that uses Kinsey’s tutoring of his researchers in their interview technique as a springboard for flashbacks into his early life, before concentrating on the impact that his findings had on both society and his team of researchers.

Like Kinsey himself, the film’s strength is that it refuses to moralise and in the process, it reminds us just how relevant the film is today - indeed, there have been strong protests against the film by the religious right in America. Clearly, then, any film that upsets the religious right must be doing something right and Kinsey is a brilliantly written, impressively directed and superbly acted film that is both enjoyable and thought-provoking. Highly recommended.

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Content updated: 16/10/2019 19:00

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