by Tony Medley
You gotta hand it to
writer-director Bill Condon. It takes something special to have such
fine actors as Liam Neeson, Laura Linney, Peter Sarsgaard, Timothy
Hutton, and John Lithgow, a subject matter that is purely sex, and
photographs that anywhere else would be considered pornographic and turn
them into something as boring as this.
With all that available to
him, this is nothing more than a bunch of talking heads. Alfred Kinsey
(Neeson), an expert on an insect called the gall wasp, marries a
student, Clara McMillen (Linney) and embarks upon a monumental research
project of the sex lives of American men that results in a nationwide
bestselling book and makes him a national figure.
But the book that makes him
famous doesn’t appear for the first 80 minutes of this 118-minute epic.
Condon tells the wrong story, concentrating on the setup instead of the
controversies that erupted following the book’s publication.
For instance, it doesn’t
mention the criticisms aimed at his methodology, or the fact that many
of his percentages have been proven wrong. He estimated that 10% of
males were exclusively homosexual when subsequent research has reduced
that number to closer to three percent. The slow tempo is exacerbated by
the funereal music (Carter Burwell). If you think the script is bad,
listen to the music. On second thought, don’t listen to the music.
I don’t know how accurate
this portrayal is, but it subjugates love to sex. In fact it ends with a
scene that’s supposed to be sympathetic to the cold, amoral Kinsey. He’s
interviewing a woman who had a good, 23-year marriage to a man and had
three children. But she went to work someplace and met a woman and
decided she was a lesbian and it broke up her family. When Kinsey
apologizes, she smiles and says that he “saved her life.” There’s no
mention or concern about what it did to her husband and three children,
just the selfishness of her pleasure.
Interspersed throughout are
such traditional values-degrading scenes as Kinsey being seduced by one
of his assistants, Clyde Martin (Sarsgaard). When Clara finds out about
it, she’s devastated, but Kinsey talks “reason” to her and she
subsequently embarks on a sexual relationship with Martin. So much for
fidelity. However, Kinsey’s daughter has said she knew nothing of any
homosexual activities or feelings of her father. She has also said he
was so deeply in love with her mother. What I inferred from what she
said was that she doesn’t believe it possible that her father could have
encouraged her mother to have sexual relations with another man. If this
is fiction, shame on Condon for slandering Clara Kinsey, not to mention
Kinsey himself, who is not here to defend herself.
Near the end Martin does tell
Kinsey, “F___ing isn’t just friction and orgasm. F___ing is the whole
thing.” The implication being that you can’t separate sexual acts from
love. If this film is accurate, it indicts the people investigating
sexual mores as becoming libertines as a result of their involvement in
their research, slaves to their sexual desires, their moral values
This film is a terrible
disappointment, foisting dubious facts on its audience. Although the
acting is good, the script is deplorable and the directing dreadful.
November 13, 2004