Liam Neeson delivers his best performance since "Schindler's List" in "Kinsey," one of the best movies of the year. Neeson plays Dr. Alfred Kinsey, the man who revolutionized the study of sex and brought us to where we are today. As he himself says in the film, his life story is a stupid idea for a Hollywood movie, but, amazingly, it isn't.
"Kinsey" follows the title character through a brief look at his childhood and at his disagreeable father (Jon Lithgow) up through the rise and fall of his career. After studying bugs for several years, he became devoted to answering the simple questions about sex that no one truly knew the answer to. His findings, of course, contradicted most teachings at the same (mainly dictated by moral and religious doctrines) and became a bestselling book. However, he burned a lot of bridges in the process and his work took a huge hit on his family and friends, as his crew continued to push the limits of acceptable sexuality.
The movie is absolutely terrific. The first two acts are absolutely spellbinding as Neeson brings to the screen a blindly ambitious man who starts out being very naive about sex, and social circumstances altogether. In many ways, some of his earlier dialogue sounds like something out of "A Beautiful Mind," where Russell Crowe was attempting to talk to Jennifer Connelly. Neeson is funny but flawed, and his flaws continue to show more and more throughout the movie. Still, despite his emotional shortcomings, his blatant interest in his subjects and goofy grin make him a likable lead.
Neeson is supported by a terrific cast that includes Laura Linney, Peter Sarsgaard, Timothy Hutton, Oliver Platt, Dylan Baker and Chris O'Donnell. Linney is superb though somewhat subdued; after a while, her character seemed to be left out of the loop. Sarsgaard ("Garden State") is great as usual.
Most impressive is that while the movie can easily be categorized as a drama, it is also very funny. Sex talk always derives giggles, and "Kinsey" does an excellent job of incorporating the humor of sex into the screenplay without making a mockery of it.
The movie does slow down a bit in the third act as it becomes more emotional and serious. There is a noticeable change of pace and mood, which is somewhat jarring at first, but that's not to say the third act isn't great. Neeson really gets to show his range; if you contrast him to his character in the first act, it is an amazing difference.
"Kinsey" is a biography that doesn't sound like it would make much of a movie, but thanks to a terrific screenplay by director Bill Condon ("Gods and Monsters") and Oscar-worthy acting by Neeson, it is easily one of the best of the year.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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