Collector's Edition

Review by Michael Jacobson

Stars:  Liam Neeson, Laura Linney, Chris O'Donnell, Peter Sarsgaard, Timothy Hutton, John Lithgow, Oliver Platt, Tim Curry
Director:  Bill Condon
Audio:  Dolby Digital 5.1, DTS 5.1
Video:  Anamorphic Widescreen 2.35:1
Studio:  20th Century Fox
Features:  See Review
Length:  118 Minutes
Release Date:  May 17, 2005

"Who can tell me which part of the human body can enlarge 100 times?  Miss?"

"I'm sure I don't know."

"I was referring to the pupil of your eye."

Film ***1/2

Alfred Kinsey (Neeson) was a revolutionary...not against king nor country, but against societal conventions.  He brought to America her first real study of sexuality and what kinds of things really go on in the bedroom.  In an era when people regularly repressed their own urges in an effort to be 'normal', many questions about the subject went unanswered.  Kinsey sought to rectify that.

His single-mindedness was both his greatest gift and harshest curse.  True, he helped usher in more tolerance and understanding than ever before, but his obsession with breaking down all moral restrictions eventually brought him down.  At one point, his book was the top selling tome and he was a sensation from coast to coast.  By the end of his life, he had no funding and few friends.  Even the university he single-handedly brought tons of money and recognition to turned away when he needed it most.

Brought up in a strict religious household by his father (Lithgow), the quiet Kinsey earned prominence for his work in entomology.  But a wedding night fiasco with his new bride Clara (Linney) turned his attention toward sex.  As a scientist, he realized every problem has a solution, and the solutions that were currently available at the time, where doctors spoke of one sexual position and had bizarre theories about what might ruin your fertility, were far from helpful.

As his knowledge grew, so did his reputation.  His class on marital sexuality at Indiana University became an event every student sought out.  When faced with questions he couldn't answer, he used the scientific approach...namely gathering as much data as possible and analyzing it to discover trends and outcomes.  He recruited three top students (O'Donnell, Sarsgaard, Hutton) to aid him in his work.

He exposed different kinds of behavior, discovered homosexuality was more prevalent than had previously been thought, and sought to break down barriers of fear and prejudice.  His conscience was driven by science without moral compass...though he was right to try and rid places of ridiculous laws governing what went on in bedrooms between consenting adults, he also encouraged and practiced infidelity, not realizing until too late what kind of hurt such actions can cause.  Some morality may seem imposed and oppressive, but sometimes the line between right and wrong exists so that we can live with one another.

Nothing illustrates that as well as a scene where he interviews a true sex fiend, who boasts that his thousands of conquests included children.  This should have served as a wake-up call for Kinsey, but if the revelation had any lasting effect on his psyche, we don't really see it come through in his approach to his work.

He helped countless couples and individuals, but at the same time, his disregard for all moral bounds made him an easy target for those who would destroy him.  He was called everything from a deviant to an out and out Communist for his lectures and publications.  Through it all, he saw himself only as a scientist trying to diagnose problems rather than create them.

This film, written and directed by Bill Condon (Gods and Monsters), is a fascinating character study of a man that remains controversial more than half a century later.  It's frequently funny, shocking, and deeply moving, and most of all, solidly entertaining.  Liam Neeson has long been a favorite of mine, and in this role, he offers his best performance since bringing the enigmatic Oskar Schindler to life.  Meeting him stroke for stroke (no pun intended) is the always wonderful Laura Linney, who garnered an Oscar nomination for her work.  The chemistry the pair demonstrates is one of the movie's most winning and driving forces.

Condon's approach to Professor Kinsey is very much like Kinsey's approach to his own work...he passes no judgments and offers little in the way of either real praise or condemnation.  He merely studied his subject inside and out to see what made him tick, and reflected on how one man's role brought about the beginnings of the first real chance in societal perceptions. 

Kinsey was a man so driven by science that he seemed unaware that he was taking great risks with his life and career, and those of his closest associates.  He seems more bewildered than anything else at the end when he can no longer continue what he started because people started turning away from him.  But he left behind a legacy with far reaching impact.  You probably know a great deal more about human sexuality than your grandparents or parents ever did, and if so, you can thank the good Doc for that.

Video ****

This is a most impressive anamorphic widescreen transfer from Fox that captures Condon's vision of a more simpler time in America with striking clarity and beauty.  Images are sharp, crisp and clean throughout, with good levels of detail, bright natural looking colors, and nothing to break up or distract from the viewing experience.  Very well done.

Audio ***  

The dialogue drives the film, but both Dolby Digital and DTS soundtracks deliver it with clarity and a natural sound, bedded against a solid music score by Carter Burwell.  Dynamic range is fairly good, and no undue noise spoils the effect.

Features ****

This double disc special edition is loaded with juicy extras, most of which are downright fun.  The first disc has a commentary with Bill Condon, who is one of the better filmmakers when it comes to speaking about his movies.  His thoughts are generous and his recollections warm, as he discusses the various drafts of the scripts, casting Laura Linney first who became a great cheerleader for the project, Liam Neeson and his outside-in approach to acting, and all of the talented cast and crew who helped him realize his vision.

The second disc is another bonanza of goodies, starting with a full length documentary that addresses both Kinsey the film and the man with interviews galore.  There are 20 deleted scenes with optional commentary from Condon, a hilarious gag reel (what Laura Linney says about not being fair made me shoot Diet Pepsi out of my nose), a look at some of the artifacts collected at the Kinsey Institute, an interactive sex questionnaire, and both theatrical and teaser trailers, which are hoots, plus a bonus trailer for What the Bleep Do We Know?


The pen is indeed mightier than the sword, and what Dr. Kinsey put to paper helped change the way we think.  He may not have brought the best possible balance to his work, but that was for future generations to ponder.  This film is a terrific study of the man and his science, and offers a look at a time when barriers were breaking down and minds were beginning to open for the first time.

FREE hit counter and Internet traffic statistics from freestats.com