(Originally published in Rocky Mountain Bullhorn)
Likely to infuriate social conservatives despite its impressive evenhandedness, Bill Condon’s Kinsey details the groundbreaking life of controversial sex researcher Alfred Kinsey. Simultaneously hailed and decried for helping usher in the ‘60’s sexual revolution, Kinsey, a biologist, made a name for himself publishing frank, graphic studies such as the best-selling "Sexual Behavior in the Human Male," and Condon’s impressive film makes no bones about its respect for the iconoclastic Kinsey. Yet in its schmaltz-free portrait of the pioneering scientist – a man who fought to normalize open discussions of sex, but who also viewed Americans’ bedtime habits with a discomfortingly robotic detachment – Kinsey proves itself that rare species of biopic that captures authentic truth by refusing to lionize its far-from-perfect subject.
Rebelling against the Protestantism of his father (John Lithgow, basically reprising his role from Footloose), Kinsey – after discovering that his students were hopelessly ignorant about sex – gave up his studies on gall wasps in favor of attempting to change the country’s pervasive puritanical disdain for sexual discourse. As embodied by a superb Liam Neeson, the imposing Kinsey is a man of stark contradictions – a sexually experimental bisexual who was also a cold, emotionally remote clinician naively convinced that the topics of sex and love could be separated. Fortunately, Condon’s wonderful film embraces Kinsey’s paradoxical personality, refusing to shy away from his shortcomings as a husband (to Laura Linney’s tolerant Clara) and as a researcher (especially with regards to his dealings with a pedophilic monster) while nonetheless conveying reverence for its protagonist’s landmark achievements.