On the heels of the critically acclaimed Gods and Monsters (1998), writer/director Bill Condon scores again with another meticulous, intelligent biography of a prominent but little-understood historical figure struggling with his controversial sexuality. In the case of Kinsey, sexuality is at the core of his hero's intellectual and physical journey, giving the filmmaker a chance to pose difficult questions about nature versus nurture, human sexual behavior, and the role of psychology in reproduction. Answers, even theoretical ones, to those questions are not always forthcoming. In one sequence Kinsey mutilates himself in an effort to examine the line between pleasure and pain, but his motivations are never fully explored. In another, his son explodes with frustration at his family's frank dinner-table discussion of coitus, but the character then disappears, as do the uncomfortable but completely justifiable criticisms he raises. While imperfect, however, Condon is to be applauded for mining such a rich, complex, and still-controversial subject, achieving a provocative and absorbing final result. The performances of Liam Neeson, Peter Sarsgaard, and Laura Linney are uniformly excellent and emotionally layered, and the filmmaker introduces a sneaky sense of humor into his material that renders it more accessible than his previous efforts. Kinsey (2004) joins the ranks of A Beautiful Mind (2001) and the TV film Longitude (2000) as a sterling example of the sci-bio subgenre.
by Karl Williams review