Monday, November 2, 2009

Film Review: Kinsey (2004)

This was one of the films that disappeared during the 2004 awards glut, with only a nomination for the lovely Laura Linney in a plum supporting role as Kinsey's wife.

I haven't seen it since I saw it then, but after catching a few endearing minutes of it on TV on Saturday, I decided to get it sent from Fatso (love me some Fatso) and here we are.

It's a different film than I was anticipating, and it's quite a unique creature. It retains very few traces of the studio-made, awards-ready film that you might think of from it's awards pedigree cast and director. What we have is an engaging, if mildly middlebrow, film.

Liam Neeson plays Kinsey, the man who pioneered studies of sexology in the USA and, according to this film, revolutionized the mainstream attitudes towards sex. The lovely Laura Linney plays his wife, affectionately called 'Mac', and who thankfully steers stray of the 'long suffering wife' cliche with a thorny and amiable performance. It's easy to see why she got Oscar nominated; it's a very able performance that supports what might be seen as a weak lead performance.

Personally, I found Neeson to be very good in the lead role. He doesn't stoop to sanctifying his protagonist, and it's a subtly growing and nuanced performance without any big 'Oscary' moments.

Technically, the film is quite competent. There's some very good editing and use of crosscutting which I enjoyed, and it definitely makes this film stand apart from the rest of the award's baity films. The cinematography is quite standard, but it evokes the look and feeling of the era quite well. (The best choice in cinematography is one that I'll mention soon.)

I would have liked to see the film tackle the social discourse of Kinsey's discoveries in a much more head-on way, however. We only get a feeling that it's not very well-appreciated and then we move on, when I imagine there was much more of a shake up. However, the film does do a competent job (a word I seem to be using a lot) of approaching this subject matter, and I credit Condon's light touch for that.

The best scene in the film isn't due to it's direction, Neeson's performance or Linney's performance; it's due to Lynn Redgrave. She's in this film for barely three minutes, and she turns it right around as his final interview subject. In a brief monologue, which Condon mercifully chooses not to cut from, Redgrave essays a life of torture, heartbreak and mental anguish. The camera slowly zooms away from her as she simply pours her heart out for Kinsey. And it's not histrionic or exploitative in any way, it's just.... pure beauty. It's the best performance in the film, and I doubt I'll forget it for quite a long time.

Kinsey is a film which deals with it's theme of sexual revolution deftly and engaging performances and direction do this subject matter justice. B.

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