Published May 01, 2005Last year was the year of the biopic. Ray Charles (Ray), Howard Hughes (The Aviator) and J.M. Barrie (Finding Neverland) were brought to the silver screen. Though those lives provided for wonderful storytelling, each of them were merely great entertainers, and the impact their lives had on the world remains entertainment. Alfred Kinsey, who is considerably less well-known, is somebody whose story still resonates. Editor of The Kinsey Report, and one of the first Americans to discuss the science behind sexual behaviour, the lessons of Kinsey's life remain prevalent in an era where sexual education remains an issue and homosexuals are still struggling to gain equality. Director Bill Condon (Gods and Monsters) gracefully brings Kinsey's story to the screen, combining imperative historical information, subtle humour and humanity in its finest form. He follows Kinsey's life through flashbacks and black-and-white shot interview sessions that ask the questions found within The Kinsey Report (questions about Americans' sexual behaviour). Liam Neeson does excellent work as Alfred Kinsey, while the adorable Laura Linney perfects the "long-suffering wife" role, and Peter Sarsgaard continues to prove how underrated he is.
Attempting to capitalise on the release of the more popular film, PBS Home Video has simultaneously released its Kinsey "biography," which was part of the American Experience series. Though in many cases one might imagine this would be a more historically informative route, the PBS film is a tad dry. The interviews with the still-living Kinsey associates and his daughters are interesting, but generally the film shows just how accurate the Condon film is, and how much more entertaining it is in comparison. Watching this American Experience version is like watching an E! True Hollywood Story on Ray Charles instead of Ray. The special edition of the Condon DVD includes two wonderful documentaries. The best of the two, "The Kinsey Report: Sex on Film," documents the making of the film, while asking people (including the stars) questions about their own sexual history. It's just as informative as the PBS film and ten times more entertaining. There is also an interactive sex quiz, which asks 45 questions then proceeds to assign you various "levels" on the state of your sexuality. The extras are well-produced and quite entertaining, though not the star. Kinsey, as a film, emotionally involves the viewer while raising important questions about the society they live in, specifically how little it's come since The Kinsey Report was published in 1951. (Fox; Paramount)