(out of 5)

This film reminds me of the line that Ben Kingsley delivers in Merchant Ivory’s adaptation of E.M. Forster’s Maurice: “England has always been disinclined to accept human nature.” Substitute England for the current empire of the good ole’ US Of Bush-A, and you’ve got this film’s target in a nutshell. When Dr. Alfred Kinsey published his 1948 book Sexual Behaviour Of The Human Male, it tore America into shreds with its claims that just about everyone in the country was having a lot more sex, in a lot more ways, than anyone was admitting to. Of course, its being so shocking and controversial was what made it the biggest seller in bookstores for months, and it has since changed the face of scientific studies of sexuality. This extremely well-acted and expertly directed film by Bill Condon (Gods And Monsters) traces the career of Kinsey () from his days studying gall wasps, where he meets the woman who will eventually become his wife (), and with whom the awkward first steps of exploring each other’s sexuality will lead to his awareness of his generation’s lack of knowledge on the subject. Gathering funding from various sources and putting together a team of researchers (, ), plus employing the help of his wife and one of his ace students (, who is brilliant), Kinsey goes around the country taking sexual experience histories from people of all ages, races and social backgrounds in an effort to gather further data than has ever been assembled before (attitudes in his day include people thinking that performing oral sex on a woman would make it difficult for her to get pregnant later on). Naturally, the publication of his findings about men meets with dire resistance (and curiosity) from the country, but when he decides to plunge back into research to publish a companion book on the subject of women’s experiences, Kinsey finds his funding blocked. Meanwhile, his own personal exploration of sexuality, with his wife and with Sarsgaard (who it must be said has the sexiest nude scene of the year), takes him beyond scientific exploration and he eventually realizes that people can only be treated as lab rats for so long before the emotional consequences become apparent. Condon keeps the pace going steadily and fills the film with fascinating information, but there are a few things missing that would have been helpful had they been further developed: why is there so little discussion of the political ramifications of his studies? Surely a key reason why Kinsey’s research met with such disapproval was the fact that telling marginalized groups like straight and gay women and gay men that they weren’t alone and that their behaviour wasn’t demonic was giving power to groups that had long been oppressed. There’s a context missing here that would have made the film a lot more important instead of just exceptionally entertaining. Still, it’s a solid viewing experience, with Neeson giving his most appealing performance ever (for once he’s not lecturing at everyone in the audience), Linney doing her usual job of making something extraordinary out of everything she’s given and Sarsgaard stealing the very show from both of them every chance he gets. The screenplay will delight you with its frank discussions of sexuality; the more easily intimidated will giggle, everyone else will marvel at how backwards human beings are on the subject of sex and continue to be (the fact that the film has met with controversy and even protest shows that many are still not ready to accept the fact that humans are possessed of a human nature).

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USA/Germany, 2004

Directed by

Screenplay by Bill Condon

Cinematography by

Produced by

Music by

Production Design by

Costume Design by

Film Editing by

Film Festivals:  TIFF 2004

Cast Tags:  , , , , , , , , , , ,, , , , , , , , , , , ,, , , , , , , , , , , , ,, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,, , , , , , , , , , ,

Academy Award Nomination
Best Actress in a Supporting Role (Laura Linney as “Clara McMillen”)

Golden Globe Award Nominations
Best Motion Picture-Drama
Best Performance By An Actor in a Motion Picture-Drama (Liam Neeson)
Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture (Laura Linney)

Los Angeles Film Critics Award
Best Actor (Liam Neeson)

National Society of Film Critics Award Nominations
Best Supporting Actor (Peter Sarsgaard)
Best Supporting Actress (Laura Linney)

National Board Of Review Awards
Best Supporting Actress (Laura Linney)
Top Ten Films

Screen Actors Guild Award Nomination
Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Supporting Role (Laura Linney)

Writers Guild Award Nomination
Best Original Screenplay

Independent Spirit Award Nominations
Best Feature
Best Male Lead (Liam Neeson)
Best Supporting Male (Peter Sarsgaard)
Best Screenplay



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