Our Rating: ★★★★☆
L Factor: Minor lesbian content
Short Take: Biography of Dr Alfred Kinsey, whose studies of human sexuality were groundbreaking in bringing gay and lesbian issues into the mainstream.
Alternate Titles:
Year: 2004
Duration: 118 min
Language: USA, Germany/English
MPAA: R
Director: Bill Condon
Writer: Bill Condon
Starring: Liam Neeson, Laura Linney, Chris O’Donnell, Peter Sarsgaard, Timothy Hutton, John Lithgow, Tim Curry, Oliver Platt, Dylan Baker, Julianne Nicholson, William Sadler, John McMartin, Veronica Cartwright, Kathleen Chalfant, Heather Goldenhersh

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KinseyDr Alfred Kinsey’s studies of human sexuality were groundbreaking in bringing gay and lesbian issues into the mainstream, along with discussions about human sexuality in general. (Kinsey’s studies are the origin of the 10% gay and lesbian number we still use today.)

This biography begins with his young life, marriage and early work as a biologist studying wasps. Over time, he becomes the faculty member whom students visit for sex advice, and he starts teaching a ‘marriage course’ to combat sexual misinformation. He finds that he can’t answer many questions because there has been no real academic work on the subject, and so it begins. Most of the film focuses on his first study of men, including visiting gay bars and having his first sexual experience with a man (his research assistant).

He creates a scale of homosexual on one side and heterosexual on the other side, plotting individuals and their orientations on the scale, without judgment about ‘normalcy.’ ‘Everybody’s sin is nobody’s sin.’ Kinsey would not cooperate with demands to out homosexuals in the state department, and J Edgar Hoover compiled dossiers on Kinsey and his staff. ‘The forces of chastity,’ as he calls them, were rising to intimidate the scientists.

The movie ends with his study of women, which faced much more public indignation than the male study. He finds that women most often reach orgasm through clitoral stimulation, and that ‘the introduction of the penis does little to introduce additional stimulation.’ The only exclusively lesbian content comes at the end with an interview of a subject played by Lynn Redgrave. In a moving moment, she describes falling in love with another woman and the difficulties of her life afterwards, even thinking of suicide. The difference after reading Kinsey’s book is that she realized there were other women like her. It gave her the courage to begin a relationship with the woman she loved. Just as Kinsey was feeling defeated by lack of funding and negative public pressure, the woman tells him, ‘You saved my life, sir.’

Liam Neeson (The Haunting) is wonderful as Kinsey, as is Laura Linney as his very interesting and unconventional wife Clara. The film received several Oscar nominations and won the GLAAD Media Award for Outstanding Film – Wide Release. (AB)