I had an unusual perspective on this film. I recently read The Inner Circle, by TC Boyle, which covers almost the same ground. It was fun to compare, and what was immediately obvious was that Boyle and Bill Condon, the writer/director, used the same source material. Some scenes might almost have been lifted from Boyle’s book, but I assume they came from other works written by or about Alfred “Prok” Kinsey. In particular there was a disturbing scene of an interview with a man who claimed almost 10,000 sexual contacts, including 26 species of animal, 600 preadolescent boys and almost as many girl children. That must have come from The Kinsey Report.
Kinsey is portrayed the same in both media: maniacally focused, relentless, single-minded, domineering, energetic, a real asshole at times … and yet able to inspire a cult-like devotion in those who worked for him.
It is almost impossible for most of us to realize not only how repressed we were in the 1930s, when Kinsey began his researches, but how profoundly ignorant, and even worse, how criminally misinformed about sex. Books were written and accepted as gospel with absolutely insane assertions. People were put in jail not only for homosexuality but for adultery, fornication, and oral sex. No kidding!
Though he is almost forgotten today, or dismissed because we’ve become so sophisticated at the sort of thing he pioneered, in my opinion he has had an effect on Western society as profound as that of Freud, who, also in my opinion, got a lot of things wrong but forced us to look at our minds. Kinsey forced us to look at our bodies, and literally began the “sexual revolution” single-handed … so to speak. (Masturbation was sure to be deadly, according to popular “authorities.”) There are plenty who wish he’d never done so. Some have a point (more than half of marriages today end in divorce) and some (those who would like to put gay people back in the closet, or better yet, into the concentration camps) are beneath contempt.
His chief failing was in being unable to deal with the emotional side of sex. He himself was bisexual, and came to regard that as the norm to be desired. Boyle devotes his book to the tragic sexual experiments he put his associates through … and I’m sorry to say it’s his least effective book. His protagonist (not Prok, but a feckless assistant) was hopeless, and when I can’t feel much sympathy for the narrator it’s hard for me to like a book. Kinsey is much more a traditional biopic, following traditional structure, but works very well. The liberties it takes are those of compression and generalization, and are forgivable in my mind. I recommend this movie highly.