The Red Right Hand

Sex Is A Risky Game. Let's Talk About It

Bill Condon
Liam Neeson
Laura Linney
Peter Sarsgaard
Chris O'Donnell
Oliver Platt

In 1947 Professor Alfred Kinsey (of the Indiana State University) published a book entitled 'Sexual Behaviour In The Human Male' (oddly enough I've actually read it in accordance with and to further my degree in Psychology). Up until this release it was more or less nationally (across the US) agreed that masturbation would make you go blind or insane, that homosexuality was an extremely rare deviation, that most sex was within marriage and most married couples limited themselves to the one socially traditional, male-dominated position during sex.

This film, directed by Bill Condon [who directed an Oscar Award winning film Gods And Monsters, starring Ian McKellen] shows how Kinsey [Neeson] found himself asking questions that no one had answers to or was willing to answer. The two key scenes are acted out so well, having just seen Kinsey and Mac (one of his biology students, Clara McMillan, played by Linney) getting married the 'first night' scene takes place and everything is so beautifully awkward. There's a very clear sense that these two 20-somethings have absolutely no idea how to go about having sex. After discovering that it's simply far too painful for Mac they cease and Kinsey (in a typical male fashion) rolls away from her and starts to sulk, thinking he's doing something wrong. Days later they visit an expert and they eventually find the best way to have intercourse. The second is when two newly married students come to him, explaining how they're having difficulties; the girl proclaims to be "dead down there." Through the course of their conversation you see how quietly frustrated Kinsey becomes knowing that he can't help this couple because there's no confirmed data that he knows of.

Before writing his book, he began a basic class which in itself was probably more shocking than the released publication. The BBFC (British Board of Film Classification) are responsible for rating films that are shown in the UK, they have a rather strict policy referring to sexual imagery and how that affects the final cinematic rating. During Kinsey's opening lecture the professor displays slides depicting penetration (legally speaking, here in the UK top-shelf pornography cannot show any form of penetration, other than oral) which has the lecture hall gasping and holding their brows feeling very taken aback. The thing which got me thinking was just that these things were being shown in a film rated 15 - somewhat controversial, no? Well it translates a similar effect with the audience in the cinema as it did with the students of the past, you immediately feel shocked that you're seeing this in a star-cast production such as this.

The opening scene (which I'm only coming to now because it's chronologically relevant) shows Clyde Martin [Sarsgaard], one of Kinsey's students at that first lecture, being taught how to ask the questions of the survey without judgement or prejudice. I especially liked this scene, not only for the fact that it kept returning to this interview time-and-again throughout the film in an effective way, but because I could relate to it in my training to become a Psychologist. This scene also allows us brief glimpses at Kinsey's childhood, more his sexual awakening and the relations with his Father than anything else.

While travelling around the US in search of more data and willing contributors, Kinsey and Martin have a homosexual encounter followed by a scene in which Kinsey tells his wife bluntly and openly, hoping for there to be no secrets between them, which later leads to open sexual relations among the staff (not the best way to run an office harmoniously). This is a turning point for the film as you begin to see his colleagues grow and fall from each other, illustrating how they have to remain loyal to one another as the world starts to turn on them.

Although I left the screening a little disappointed, feeling that it had a somewhat slow pace following a slow start and blushing (ever-so-slightly) I slowly began to recall certain scenes that had caught my attention (for any reason - the way my mind operates, I generally recall the humorous things first) which progressively grew in number throughout the course of writing this review. In my opinion, this film's true strengths are based in retrospect; I feel that it's what you remember about this film that makes it fascinating. Thanks to the work of Professor Kinsey, we are aware that your average member of the public behaves in pretty much the same way (sexually) as those over 50 years ago, the only difference being that we have the privilege (or curse) of being made aware of it through things like the media.

Release Date:
4 March 2005

The Scene To Look Out For:
Following the death of Kinsey's mother he returns home and reveals to his Father (a strict and devote protestant) that he's studying sex. This then leads to Kinsey Snr. revealing to his son that he was a chronic masturbator and was punished by having to wear a 'tight strap' to avoid any contact with his genitals. Seeing how his Father -who he had come to hold with contempt- was mistreated at the young age of 10, Kinsey Jr. begins to feel such a swell of pity that comes across so well as Neeson says, "I'm so sorry, Dad."

Notable Characters:
The highlighted character for me was Kinsey's Father, Alfred Kinsey Snr. [John Lithgow] just because he represented everything that the 1940's public stood for and gave a face for the audience to identify with in relation to those opposing Kinsey's work.

Highlighted Quote:
"Love is the answer, isn't it? But sex raises a lot of very interesting questions"

In A Few Words:
"The more you remember, the more you'll respect this film"

Total Score:

Matthew Stogdon