Kinsey (2004) Directed by Bill Condon

Sometimes it's impossible to know when something truly groundbreaking is happening, even though it might be right under your nose, and not particularly groundbreaking in the end. Yes, I'm talking about the movie career of Bill Condon. Over the course of a few years, it seemed like Bill was going to head a new fleet of movies that could be termed mainstream queer with Gods and Monsters (1998) and aspects of Kinsey. Sadly it wasn't to be and although Condon's career has been interesting with it's choices (writing Chicago and directing episodes of the Twilight saga), it's not bought with it the cool cachet that Condon should command. Kinsey should have at the least raised expectation of his talents.

The real Alfred Kinsey
For those not in the know, Kinsey depicts the life story of Alfred Kinsey, the man who at roughly the midpoint of the last century enlightened us all on how human sexuality works. It caused controversy and Kinsey's methods were unorthodox (especially for post-war America). Condon guides us through Kinsey's personal and professional relationships (they often get blurred) and how he made his own, influential sexual revolution. It's an entertaining film, though one that could have been a little more daring. Liam Neeson shouts a lot as Kinsey, but this is a brave performance from Neeson and he is good value. Able support comes from Laura Linney in a rather thankless role (in fiction and in life?) as Kinsey's wife, Clara. Kinsey brings us the full intricacies and methods of the man which include unflinching service to the cause of finding out our sexual habits. This involves wife swapping, gay relationships (which seem to become Kinsey's favourite form of sexual activity) and an unbelievable honesty and frankness about sex which excludes sentimentality.

Linney & Neeson as Mr & Mrs Kinsey
Despite the juicy premise and the performances Condon still manages to make his film episodic and at times plodding. Yes, we do relate to the central couple and in this respect Condon makes us believe Kinsey's acknowledgment of love. The lightness of touch which Condon displays here (and is welcome) also proves to be a slightly problematic for the film as a whole. We're not too sure if Condon believes in Kinsey himself, or if he thinks we should dismiss him as a chancer. This indecision does blight Kinsey slightly. But then again, the casual and relaxed way Condon deals with a character and subject matter which can be so divisive, leaves a good taste in the mouth. Kinsey does work on many levels and is worth your time. It may become an eye opener for you.

It's 2015 but I still think that most of the time we are uncomfortable about discussing sexuality. It is as if something about sex and sexualities do not conform to language. I have binge-watched Girls (all four seasons that now exist) in the last week and was sad to have finished it all yesterday, because this rare TV-series discusses so many difficult issues well. First of all it's all about the 20-something women and their sexual lives, mental health, relationships, parents, partners, men, boys, dreams, habits...Yes, it is an all white and mostly hetero bunch of young women, but it is so much more real and funny than Sex and the City from the early 2000s. The way sexuality is depicted visually and talked about in Girls is without the shame-hiding outrageousness of Samantha. Thank you Lena Dunham for writing this genius feminist 'expose'. Less shame more real pleasure – that's how I felt about Kinsey too.

Girls (HBO series)
Of course, Kinsey is a historic piece describing the origins of research into sexuality through biology. The 1940's context is far less accepting and versatile than the 2015 one. This is reflected in the movie. Although right now it feels like we have not moved anywhere but are rather moving backwards in time – case Indiana. And I am aware that there are such variations in what is acceptable sexual conduct depending on where we are on this planet. (Enter your favorite Foucault -quote here)
Anyway, Kinsey works as a movie telling the tale of Alfred Kinsey and his wife Clara Kinsey. It grows from the personal story to social impact. The couple's interest in bettering their sex life sparked Kinsey into realizing how unresearched sex of human beings was in the mid-1900's. He did something about it.

Liam Neeson in Kinsey
Kinsey also illustrates how the liberating discoveries of different sexual behaviours, identities and acts do not necessarily liberate everyone or make people equal. The movie shows that the liberation of ideas is followed by conduct that can create victims – often close to home. Human sexuality and sex acts are completely tied to emotions, feelings, love, some urges of biological necessity, cultural taboos and a million other important factors. These complicated matters make sexuality into something so much more than pleasure or procreation or power. We are still struggling to understand the diversity and powerfulness of sexuality and there is still that untold, undepicted feel surrounding so much of this topic. Oh and Liam Neeson is a dish.


Popular Posts