Hollywood is already gearing up for its big annual movie awards - the Golden Globes in mid-January and the Academy Awards this March. Among the top contenders for a trophy or two is Kinsey, a biographical film by director Bill Condon, based on the controversial life of sex researcher Alfred Kinsey. The movie has earned three Golden Globe nominations for best drama, best actor and best supporting actress.
What's so interesting about a clinical biologist who turned sexologist in 1948? One might well say, sex. But actor Liam Neeson - who turns in a strong portrayal of Alfred Kinsey, says this movie offers much more.
"Sex is still very, very controversial and the offshoots of sex - gender equality, overpopulation, AIDS, teenage pregnancies, teenage suicides - the research he did taps into all of that," Neeson says.
The movie traces Alfred Kinsey's roots as the son of a repressive authoritarian preacher. The boy eventually rebels against this puritanical community and becomes a scientist. The film shows a young and awkward professor Kinsey at Indiana University, intensely pursuing an unusual interest - the genetic development and behavior of the gal-wasp: an insect that spends its whole life traveling just a few meters away from its place of birth.
At the university he meets Clara, an intelligent and very independent-minded biology student with whom Kinsey falls in love and soon marries. Their wedding night proves to be an awkward one. Kinsey realizes how little he and his society know about sexual behavior and how much people need to better understand their own sexuality.
So, with the same tenacity he showed studying gal-wasps, he turns to the study of human sexual behavior. He starts teaching a marriage course on the subject. His first challenge is to lift the veil of secrecy and shame from a society where frank discussions of sexual practices are taboo.
Liam Neeson offers an exceptional performance as the passionate and determined Alfred Kinsey. Laura Linney is memorably moving as Kinsey's enlightened wife who struggles against social conventions and personal insecurities after her husband admits having extramarital affairs.
The film is anything but an idealistic portrayal of its main character. Director Condon deftly shows the larger-than-life scientist as a methodical researcher on the one hand and on the other, a reckless experimenter, who uses his own assistants and their families as sexual guinea pigs, and ends up hurting and alienating the people around him.
Kinsey is an intelligent, balanced and profound movie whose exceptional performances help weave a powerful story. It's a film that should not be missed.