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Bill Condon
Liam Neeson, Laura Linney, Chris O'Donnell, Peter Sarsgaard, Timothy Hutton, John Lithgow, Tim Curry, Oliver Platt, Dylan Baker, Julianne Nicholson
Writing Credits:
Bill Condon

Let's talk about sex.

Liam Neeson stars as Alfred Kinsey, a man driven by scientific passion and personal demons to investigate the elusive mystery of human sexuality. Laura Linney garnered a Best Actress Oscar® nomination for her compelling performance as Kinsey’s free-thinking wife. This provocative drama dares to lift the veil of shame from a society in which sex was hidden, knowledge was dangerous and talking about it was the ultimate taboo.

Box Office:
$11 million.
Opening Weekend
$169.038 thousand on 5 screens.
Domestic Gross
$10.214 million.

Rated R

Widescreen 2.35:1/16x9
English Dolby Digital 5.1
English DTS 5.1
Spanish Dolby 2.0
French Dolby 2.0

Runtime: 118 min.
Price: $34.98
Release Date: 5/17/2005

Disc One
• Audio Commentary with Writer/Director Bill Condon
• Inside Look
Disc Two
• “The Kinsey Report: Sex on Film” Documentary
• Deleted Scenes with Optional Commentary
• Trailers
• Gag Reel
• “Sex Ed. At the Kinsey Institute” Featurette
• Interactive Sex Questionnaire


Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.


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Kinsey: Special Edition (2004)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (May 12, 2005)

For a look at the most influential sex researcher of all, we find 2004’s Kinsey. The movie’s initial scenes introduce us to an adult Alfred Kinsey (Liam Neeson) as he goes through one of his signature sexual history interviews to train new interviewers. This allows the story to cut back to images from his early 20th century childhood, a period in which young Al (Will Denton) hears about immorality from his crusading father (John Lithgow). We also learn of Kinsey’s many childhood illnesses and see various influences that lead him to his career as a sex researcher.

Eventually the movie gets to Kinsey’s early years as a college professor and his awkward, nerdy romance with student Clara McMillen (Laura Linney). They hit it off in their exceedingly practical, dorky way and eventually get married. When they have their first sexual experience together, she worries that they don’t “fit together” physically so Alfred decides to consult a professional to solve the problem. This allows their sexual life to prosper and we see Kinsey’s gradual interest in the statistical side of sex.

Although he encounters resistance, Kinsey eventually gets the chance to teach a college course about sex, and he decides he needs to learn more. He develops an interview method and these investigations grow and grow to the point at which he pursues a massive research project. The movie follows that process along with elements of Kinsey’s personal life. We watch his relationship with Clara and their kids as well as some other sexual exploits, primarily due to a connection with researcher Clyde Martin (Peter Sarsgaard). We view all sorts of trials and tribulations in Kinsey’s personal and private lives.

Probably the biggest problem with Kinsey stems from its length. The movie’s simply too short to fully encompass all the important issues in the man’s life, so it inevitably feels like a “greatest hits” collection at times. Director Bill Condon maintains an appropriate focus on Kinsey’s work and balances that fairly well with his personal life, but gaps do occur.

The biggest comes from the lack of exposition accorded Kinsey’s children. The movie briefly alludes to a rift between Alfred and his son, but this theme quickly vanishes and receives virtually no discussion again. Given the fact that the film begins with issues connected to Kinsey’s relationship with his own father, this feels like a missed opportunity; it’d have been very interesting to see how Kinsey handled similar problems with his offspring.

As I noted, though, omissions and barely-touched-upon issues are inevitable in a feature biopic, especially when the flick addresses a subject as accomplished as Kinsey. I think the gaps are unfortunate, and they leave me wanting more.

Despite those issues, Kinsey mostly provides a nice examination of the man and his work. Condon uses the interviews as a clever technique to elaborate on Alfred’s life. The interviews serve two purposes: they let us know about how Kinsey conducted his work, and they give us information about his life. It’s a neat way to launch the flick and involve us in both areas.

I also like the movie’s pacing. Other than the issues I mentioned, Condon covers the various areas with appropriate depth, but he rarely dawdles. We zip from one area to another at a peppy pace and still get enough information to usually satisfy us.

Across the board, the movie presents solid performances. None of the actors stand out as superior to the others, but all of them provide excellent work. We get consistently honest and natural impressions of the character that lack vanity. Given the nerdiness of the roles, this is important. Indeed, the wedding night scene with Alfred and Clara may well be the most awkward and least comfortable sex sequence ever committed to film.

Kinsey meanders a bit during its third act, and I could live without the film’s cloying and drippy score. Nonetheless, it delivers a good impression of the man and his mission. By the end, it feels like we really know him.

The DVD Grades: Picture B-/ Audio B-/ Bonus A-

Kinsey appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Though no extreme issues arose, Kinsey presented a somewhat bland transfer.

For the most part, sharpness was fine. However, the movie didn’t always display terrific definition. The movie sporadically came across as a bit soft, but it usually manifested acceptable delineation. No problems with jagged edges or shimmering occurred, but I noticed a little light edge enhancement. As for print flaws, occasional specks and marks cropped up through the flick.

As one might expect from this kind of period piece, colors usually stayed subdued. Occasional outdoors shots displayed greater vivacity, but most of the movie looked fairly drab and flat. This seemed intentional. Black levels were decent though a little inky, and low-light shots also demonstrated acceptable definition but could be a bit flat. Overall, this was transfer that lacked any strong concerns, but I thought it failed to become much above average.

Despite the movie’s low-key nature, Kinsey included both Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS 5.1 soundtracks. Unsurprisingly, the pair sounded awfully similar. If any differences occurred between the two, I didn’t notice them.

The soundfields maintained a strong emphasis on the forward channels. Music demonstrated good stereo presence, and light environmental audio emanated from the sides. Occasionally some isolated dialogue popped up from the right or left as well, but mostly the track stayed with general ambience. The surrounds gently reinforced this material. They rarely did more than that, though a couple of scenes like a thunderstorm added minor activity in the rear.

Audio quality was fine. A little edginess sometimes interfered with speech, but usually the lines came across as crisp and natural. Music usually stayed subdued, so it was difficult to judge the score’s dimensionality. Those elements were fine, though, as they showed good definition. Effects also didn’t have a lot of involvement, but they appeared accurate and reasonably well-developed. There simply wasn’t a lot to this mix, so it succeeded at what it needed to do.

Despite the movie’s low profile at the box office, Kinsey comes with quite a few extras. On DVD One, the main attraction comes from an audio commentary with writer/director Bill Condon. He offers a running, screen-specific chat. Condon starts with a discussion of the film’s story structure and then progresses through financing and the flick’s slow path to the screen, casting and approaches to the characters, locations, research, the movie’s look, costumes and makeup, ratings issues, research, controversies and general anecdotes from the shoot.

Occasional dead air mars the discussion, but usually Condon keeps things lively. He certainly delves into the material with candor as he explains all the various elements. Quite a lot of great information pops up here, though I most like the notes about the protesters who attacked the film. This stands as a solid track.

The first disc also presents Inside Look. A staple of Fox DVDs, this area includes a trailer for Kingdom of Heaven.

Heading to DVD Two, we open with a documentary called The Kinsey Report: Sex on Film. This 83-minute and 31-second program includes the standard mix of movie clips, behind the scenes materials, and interviews. We hear from Condon, producer Gail Mutrux, production designer Richard Sherman, production assistants Nina Fiore, Mollie Smith, Justin Pandolfino, Laura Lim and Emre Ozpirincci, Kinsey Institute research scientist Erick Janssen, boom operator Mike Scott, Kinsey biographer Jonathan Gathorne-Handy, Kinsey Institute director Julia Heiman, Kinsey Institute Head of Information Services Jennifer Bass, Kinsey Institute Head of Library Liana Zhou, assistant to the producer Guadalupe Rilova, assistant to the co-producer Cara Rosenbloom, stand-in Christopher Soule, director of photography Frederick Elmes, costume designer Bruce Finlayson, editor Virginia Katz, and actors Laura Linney, Liam Neeson, Chris O’Donnell, Peter Sarsgaard, William Sadler, Peg Small, Roderick Hill, Maryellen Owens, Sean Skelton, and Timothy Hutton.

“Report” covers a discussion of its subject, research and its path to production, associated controversies, story construction and the script’s evolution, the current work of the Kinsey Institute and their role in the production, locations and the pros and cons of shooting in New York, casting, visual design and sets, cinematography, costumes, shooting the flick and various experiences, on the set, working on a low budget, editing and reshoots, ratings concerns, the score, and the film’s release, marketing and reception. We also get occasional comments from the participants about their formative sexual experiences.

Between Condon’s commentary and this documentary, we get a pretty complete examination of Kinsey. There’s a little duplication after Condon’s solo chat, but usually we get new information. “Report” lacks much of the usual happy talk and delves deeply into its subject. I like the fact it touches on the historical Kinsey as well as negative elements of the shoot. It avoids a promotional tone and provides a nicely rich look at the various issues. The comments about sexual experiences add a quirky touch to this fine documentary.

21 Deleted Scenes run a total of 24 minutes and 44 seconds. These mix in some new bits, but mostly they’re extended clips. They expand on existing scenes and offer some minor tidbits, but nothing terribly exciting appears here. We find a lot more interview sessions and couple other character bits. The clips remain pretty minor, though I’m happy to get a look at them.

We can watch the scenes with or without commentary from Condon. As one might expect, he presents a few production details and lets us know why he cut the various clips. Condon gets into the material appropriately and adds some insight.

In addition to two trailers for Kinsey, we get an ad for What The Bleep Do We Know?. A Gag Reel lasts two minutes, 58 seconds. It offers the usual goofs and giggles and doesn’t seem like anything special.

A six-minute and 34-second featurette called Sex Ed. At the Kinsey Institute goes on a tour of the establishment. We see some archival materials connected to Kinsey as well as historical sexual materials. It’s a little dry but it’s still good to get a look at the Institute’s collection.

Finally, we get an Interactive Sex Questionnaire. This quizzes you to discover “How Easily Are You Aroused? And How Easily Inhibited?” It’s a detailed questionnaire that gives us a closer idea of how the Kinsey plans work.

Despite his groundbreaking work, Alfred Kinsey remains unknown to most folks. Kinsey seeks to change that, and it does so quite well. The movie creates a lively and entertaining biopic with only occasional weaknesses. The DVD presents decent but unexceptional picture and audio, though it tosses in a pretty terrific roster of extras. Overall, this is a solid DVD for a compelling movie, so I recommend it.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4.4 Stars Number of Votes: 10
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