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Fox Home Entertainment presents
Kinsey: Special Edition (2004)

"Love is the answer, isn't it? But, sex raises a lot of interesting questions."
- Alfred Kinsey (Liam Neeson)

Review By: Chuck Aliaga  
Published: May 09, 2005

Stars: Liam Neeson, Laura Linney
Other Stars: Chris O'Donnell, Peter Sarsgaard, Timothy Hutton, John Lithgow, Tim Curry, Oliver Platt, Dylan Baker
Director: Bill Condon

MPAA Rating: R for (pervasive sexual content including some graphic images and descriptions)
Run Time: 01h:58m:22s
Release Date: May 17, 2005
UPC: 024543178682
Genre: drama


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
A+ A+AA A-

DVD Review

There were only a couple of movies released in 2004 that even came close to approaching the quality of Bill Condon's Kinsey. On the surface, it's a biopic about a controversial figure that introduced a controversial subject to the world and suffered the consequences. However, Kinsey is so much more than what it appears to be, as it is the perfect blend of whimsical storytelling and cold hard facts.

Kinsey was the belle of the ball as far as critics go, at least early in the 2004 awards season. The ones that it did win were mostly concentrated on the stellar acting performances, with wins coming from the National Board of Review, the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, and the Directors' Guild of Great Britain, among others. The shame of it all was that the project was almost completely shut out (with the exception of a Best Supporting Actress nomination for Laura Linney) of this year's Academy Awards. Kinsey should have replaced the far inferior Finding Neverland as a Best Picture nominee, and other acting honors should have been handed out as well.

One such honor should have gone to the incomparable Liam Neeson, who stars as Professor Alfred Kinsey, a scientist who went from collecting gall wasps to collecting letters of complaint from those who were appalled that he was bringing human sexuality into the college classroom. This wasn't standard "birds and bees" material either. Kinsey taught his subject in a graphic, frank nature, displaying close-up photos of both male and female reproductive organs, and speaking with no regard for those who are easily offended by this subject matter.

It's the rare actor that can completely embody a character, especially one based on a real person, but Neeson more than pulls it off. You'll soon forget him as Qui-Gon Jinn (Star Wars: Episode I—The Phantom Menace) and Oskar Schindler (Schindler's List), because this is a career-defining performance. It is a true crime that Neeson was not recognized with an Oscar nomination for his work here.

Laura Linney (Mystic River) is equally impressive as Kinsey's embittered wife, Clara. Linney received a well-deserved Academy Award nod for her work in the film, conveying the perfect blend of innocence, intelligence, and understanding for a role that could have been disastrous in the hands of most of today's actresses.

The rest of the supporting cast is stellar as well, including a back-from-the-dead performance by Chris O'Donnell, Timothy Hutton, John Lithgow (brilliant as Kinsey's overly strict father), Dylan Baker, and the excellent Peter Sarsgaard, who also should have been recognized more for his performance.

Kinsey begins by taking us through Alfred Kinsey's early teaching years, flashing back to childhood memories of his tough father, and taking us through his initial meeting and odd courtship of his wife. It is in dealing with the inept sexual nature of his marriage that truly opens Kinsey's eyes to the importance of sexual teaching, and the Kinseys' first successful sexual encounter turns out to be the springboard for the rest of their lives, controversy and all.

After teaching his initial class on human sexuality and hearing numerous gasps and cries from his students, the next part of the film deals with his constant struggles with the extremely negative reactions from Indiana University faculty and the various groups that attempt to have Kinsey banned from teaching. To help with his studies as well as with combating IU, Kinsey builds a pseudo-team consisting of himself, his wife, and students Clyde Martin (Sarsgaard), Wardell Pomeroy (O'Donnell), and Paul Gebhard (Hutton). This group develops a very close bond, with one of the members further opening Kinsey's mind not only to his own sexuality, but to the true nature of his relationship with his wife.

Writer/director Bill Condon (Gods and Monsters) is very picky when it comes to his projects, and this has really paid off. Condon has treated the life of this extremely important man with kid gloves, and every single effort of his blood, sweat, and tears is on the screen for us to enjoy. This was a very tricky project to pull off, with a true, realistic portrayal of such uneasy matters understandably a tough sell to any studio, let alone the MPAA. While Condon does push the envelope with some necessarily frank language—and full frontal nudity—this is still a very tasteful biopic that can easily be handled even by teenagers.

Rating for Style: A+
Rating for Substance: A+

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio2.35:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicyes


Image Transfer Review: The film is presented in anamorphic 2.35:1 widescreen, and this is a virtually flawless transfer. Colors are spot on, brilliantly rendered to make each and every tree and flower on the beautiful Indiana University campus stand out on its own. Contrast is also excellent, with deep blacks, and sharpness that only enhances the already impressive image detail. There isn't any grain or even a speck of dirt to be found either, but then this is a recent film.

Image Transfer Grade: A

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Spanish, Frenchyes
Dolby Digital
5.1
Englishyes
DTSEnglishyes


Audio Transfer Review: There's both a Dolby Digital 5.1 track and a DTS option, with both choices being very similar. Once again, though, the DTS mix gets the nod, given its more natural sound and wider dynamic range, that offers a slightly truer surround experience. Dialogue clarity never falters on either track, and the added punch of the more raucous bass in the DTS track also might make you waver towards listening to the film in that audio format.

Audio Transfer Grade: A

 

Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 32 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, Spanish with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
2 Other Trailer(s) featuring Kingdom of Heaven, What the Bleep Do We Know?!
1 TV Spots/Teasers
20 Deleted Scenes
1 Alternate Endings
1 Documentaries
1 Featurette(s)
1 Feature/Episode commentary by Writer/Director Bill Condon
Packaging: Keep Case
Picture Disc
2 Discs
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extra Extras:
  1. Gag Reel: Collection of on-set mistakes during the filming of Kinsey.
  2. Interactive Sex Questionnaire: Series of sexually-oriented questions similar to those asked by Kinsey in the film.
Extras Review: The only extras on the first disc of this two-disc set are an Inside Look at the upcoming Ridley Scott film (also starring Liam Neeson), Kingdom of Heaven, and an audio commentary track with writer/director Bill Condon. The track is a nice one to sit through, as Condon reflects on the filmmaking process after not sitting in the director's chair for six years following the success of Gods and Monsters. He also chats about the excellent actors in the film, especially Liam Neeson and Laura Linney.

Disc 2 features the hour-plus documentary, The Kinsey Report: Sex on Film. This is easily the gem of this two-disc set, as this piece delves deep into the making of Kinsey, with numerous cast and crew interviews, on-set footage, and a look at the film's premiere.

A whopping 20 (21 if you count an alternate ending) Deleted Scenes are up next, and it's very interesting to see what bits of Alfred Kinsey's life weren't worthy of inclusion in the theatrical version of the film.

The Gag Reel is very funny, and Sex Ed at the Kinsey Institute is basically a six-minute look at the "Sex Ed" exhibit that was at The Kinsey Institute Gallery from October 20, 2004 through February 11, 2005.

The most fun feature is the Interactive Sex Questionnaire, which asks you a series of very personal questions about your sexual habits. Similar to the quiz and studies in Kinsey, this calculates your answers and provides you with a rating of your sexual appetite, inhibitions, etc.

Extras Grade: A-

 

Final Comments

Kinsey is a modern masterpiece and a prime example of how a biopic should be made. Fox is releasing both single and two-disc releases of the movie, but seek out the latter for an even more comprehensive look at Alfred Kinsey, the man, and the award-worthy performances of Liam Neeson and his stellar supporting mates.

 


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