Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Movie: Kinsey (2004)

Bill Condon, you’re one sly devil. Your textbook Oscar-bait biopic is cut straight from A BEAUTIFUL MIND’s cloth. All the elements are there: the towering lead performance, the uplifting story, the tasteful raising of social issues. But your movie is about one of the most divisive figures of the late 20th century. It’s a clever piece of sleight of hand – or at least it would be, if you’d given the movie a different title. A generic one that would get people with a bias against sex researcher Dr. Alfred Kinsey into theaters. MATTER OF THE HEART, REPORT ON LOVE, something like that. Oh, well. Too late now.

Liam Neeson may seem an odd choice to play Kinsey. He’s a physically large presence, for one thing. But Neeson uses his size to his advantage, making the doctor seem ungainly and a touch uncomfortable in his own body. He also captures Kinsey’s boyish enthusiasm for all things scientific, which carries over into his sex research. Neeson is well-matched with Laura Linney as Kinsey’s wife and collaborator. Condon’s razor-sharp screenplay lays out the context and the social ramifications of Kinsey’s work with wit and economy. He’s made a smart, fleet movie.

And yet ...

It seems churlish to knock a film for underplaying in this age of hype, but KINSEY never quite develops the head of steam you think it’s going to. There’s no contrived third-act crisis, no make-or-break presentation Kinsey has to deliver. What Condon shows instead is no doubt closer to the truth: Kinsey struggles for funding and begins to wonder if his work will have any impact. It feels real and is quite moving. But a little ‘zazz wouldn’t have hurt. Other than Linney’s Mac, the supporting characters aren’t well-delineated in spite of a wonderful cast (Oliver Platt, Peter Sarsgaard, Tim Curry).

I wanted to love KINSEY. But I did enjoy our time together. And I respected it in the morning.

Hey, you’ve got to give me at least one sex joke.

Miscellaneous: Link

Deepak Chopra, belted by gamma rays ...

It scans, anyway. He’s going to need a theme song now that he’s bringing superheroes to India.