The movie is based on the book 'Sexual Behavior in the Human Male.'
By JACK MATHEWS
NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
If you've seen the trailer for writer-director Bill Condon's smart and surprisingly entertaining "Kinsey," you might agree that a more provocative title would have been "Talk Dirty to Me."
In the trailer, Liam Neeson, as the famous and infamous sex researcher Alfred Kinsey, takes a seat on a metal chair in an empty white room and explains to the camera the importance of what you're about to reveal of your sex life.
"I've learned that the gap between what we assume people do sexually and what they actually do is enormous," he said.
When Kinsey and his associates began asking their sex questions of ordinary folks in post-World War II America, they got an earful. And when Kinsey summarized his findings in the so-called Kinsey Reports, the gap closed to a collective gasp.
Kinsey's two books -- "Sexual Behavior in the Human Male" (1948) and "Sexual Behavior in the Human Female" (1953) -- rocked America and softened its defenses against the coming sexual and cultural revolutions.
Still, the zoologist turned scientific voyeur seemed an unlikely subject for a movie biography. Sure, there could be a lot of funny sex jokes -- and, boy, are there a lot! -- but where is the drama in the life of a man who studied human sexuality with the same pedantry as he had previously studied gall wasps?
Trust me, Condon found it.
"Kinsey" tells a remarkable story about a curious man from an oppressively pious background whose own sexual ignorance drove him to an obsession with human sexuality that included the full spectrum of personal experimentation.
A virgin on his disastrous wedding night, Kinsey got up to speed, and then some. During his studies, he discovered and satisfied his own homosexual urges, promoted an open marriage with his wife (Laura Linney), dictated wife-swapping among his associates and made nonjudgmental studies of some of society's sickest members.
Neeson gives the performance of his career as this odd genius. With a topknot of spiked hair, a bow tie and a solid Midwest accent, the Irish actor bears a striking resemblance to the ungainly Kinsey, and he makes his complicated inner drives very accessible.
Kinsey is not easy to like as a person, but Condon has done such a good job of filling in the doctor's psychological backstory that we understand his single-minded determination to suss out every last detail of human sexuality.
The arc of "Kinsey" goes from personal discovery to international esteem to national disgrace. His book on male sexuality made him the toast of academe, but the second on women made him a target of congressional investigators and a rumored fellow traveler of Communists.
The face-to-face interviews laced throughout the movie are fascinating and often laugh-out-loud funny. Ask people to talk dirty, and you don't know what they'll say.