Kinsey, starring Liam Neeson, is a film that seems more relevant today. Albert Kinsey, known to his students as Prok, had to fight societal conservatism to get his work published and recognized. The movie is part biography/part sociological study. The director/writer Bill Condon traces Kinsey’s life from early childhood to older age. The flaws of the film are a matter of narrative clarity: in two hours, Condon tries to pack too much in. However, Kinsey sports a strong cast, which makes the two hou…s fly by. This is one of best films of 2004.
Liam Neeson is perfectly cast as the complex “Prok”. Neeson seems so natural in these “important roles” (think Oscar Schindler). He has the detachment of a scientist, but we know the heart is raging underneath. He is seduced by a male colleague (played by the stellar Peter Sarrsgard), and the scene is electric. There is also a scene later in the film where Kinsey feels the guilt for opening up this “Pandora’s Box”. Neeson has a breakdown that is perfectly believable. Laura Linney (in her Oscar Nominated role) is equally as watchable as Kinsey’s wife “Mac”. Linney captures the complexities of this character as well; she’s torn between unconventional morality and her love for “Prok”. In the film’s final touching scene, Prok and Mac emerge as a couple that really does need each other. There is a depth and subtlety to their relationship that words cannot express. Kudos to Condon for bringing such a modern, mature relationship to the screen. Rounding out the cast is Peter Sarrsgard, Timothy Hutton, and an excellent John Lithgow (as Kinsey’s father). In a nice bit of type casting, Lithgow plays a conservative preacher (Footlose anyone?), but his final scene with Kinsey is a heartbreaker; one is reminded that Mr. Lithgow needs to leave the 3rd Rock more often.
The audio mix can be heard in Dolby Digital 5.1 or DTS. I wonder why anyone would need DTS since this is a dialogue driven track. Rear speakers are mostly used for ambience and the exquisite Carter Burwell score. But I suppose some surround is better than no surround. Nature scenes are quite effective with the use of surround speakers. Since this is a dialogue heavy film, it’s important that the words come through clean and clear. No problem for this audio mix.
Presented in 2.35:1 Widescreen, this video transfer is impeccable. The colors are natural and clear. There are a lot of grays (perhaps to emphasize the moral ambiguity of the film) and a lot of browns (to emphasize the “scholarly” nature of the film). There is hardly any grain or edge enhancement. Pixilation and shimmering are held to a minimum. This is a natural, beautiful transfer.
On Disc One there is a feature length commentary by writer/director Bill Condon. Condon gives a thoughtful, intelligent commentary here. This is not a technical geek fest. Condon talks about some of the historical and thematic issues as well. Well worth a listen.
On Disc Two has a large quantity of extras, and a nice variety too. First up is a documentary called “The Kinsey Report: Sex on Film”. This 90 minute documentary is a great overview of Prok and his work. Filmmakers and researchers are interviewed as well. There are 20 or so deleted scenes. Each scene is presented in widescreen and a filmmaker commentary option. There is also an alternate ending. Trailers include ones for Kinsey and the film What the Bleep Do We Know. There is a gag reel that shows the actors goofing off. It’s nice to see them having a good time. There’s a featurette called “Sex Ed: At the Kinsey Institute”, which is a six minute tour of the Kinsey Institute. Finally (and ask your kids to leave the room for this one), is an interactive, 45 part sex questionnaire. Don’t worry, your answers are definitely on the hush hush. I hope.
From gall wasps to humans, Alfred Kinsey has been fascinated by nature. In a conservative time, with his Kinsey Report, Prok proved to be a controversial figure. His subject matter, research methods, and (ultimately) his personality were called into question. The release of Kinsey couldn’t be timelier. We seem to be slipping back into a conservative age, and the importance of Kinsey’s work needs to reevaluated. With solid audio, video, and extras, the 2 Disc Edition of Kinsey is a great start. Let’s talk about sex…bay-bee…
Special Features List
- Writer/Director Commentary
- “The Kinsey Report: Sex on Film”
- Deleted Scenes
- Gag Reel
- “Sex Ed at the Kinsey Institute”
- Interactive Sex Questionnaire