Release date: November 17, 2011
Director: Tanya Wexler
Story by: Jonah Lisa Dyer, Stephen Dyer, Howard Gensler
Screenplay: Jonah Lisa Dyer, Stephen Dyer
Cast: Hugh Dancy, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Jonathan Pryce, Felicity Jones, Rupert Everett, Ashley Jensen, Sheridan Smith
Set in the Victorian era, Hysteria tells the story of how Dr. Mortimer Granville invented the vibrator to the comfort of millions of women around the world.
Sounds hilarious? Positively, especially when we meet Dr. Granville (Dancy) who is a forward-thinking doctor reading all he has to read to keep up with the new advancements of medicine, while many in the medicine field are thinking that cleanliness and germs are nothing but poppycock.
After losing his job, and many others before, Dr. Granville ends up at the offices of Dr. Robert Dalrymple (Pryce), who makes a really good buck treating women from the HORRIBLE symptoms of, what was then known as, “female hysteria.” The treatment was quiet simple, really, by just having these women sitting — legs wide open — and being treated down there by the magical, though tired, fingers of Dr. Dalrymple.
With eagerness to help and the desire to make a decent living, Dr. Granville accepts the job offer to help these poor women. Part of the perks of his job, he gets to live at the Dalrymple’s residency and share his meals with Dalrymple’s youngest daughter, Emily (Jones), who is the epitome of a proper English lady… unlike her older sister, Charlotte (Gyllengaal), who is loud and never shuts her mouth about women’s right to vote.
Nevermind that she spends all her time not doing what her father wants while spending all the money she gets helping the poor.
That’s the thing about Hysteria, it’s really funny when it’s about the invention of the vibrator. But how long can that fill a bit more than an hour and a half of running time? The added drama and character background is needed to make the movie work, but at the same time it kills the pacing of the film. Of course, Gyllenhaal is more than charismatic enough to overcome this, and we stick around to finish off this comedy with a bit of romance, which works somehow with an almost mumbling Hugh Dancy, whose character gets moped around by the father of the girl he supposedly likes, the girl he is not supposed to like, and his… sponsor (Everett), who ultimately gives him the tools to make that vibrator.
But overall, Hysteria doesn’t look above a made-for-tv movie — the treatment of the film, the way the story works, there’s nothing remarkable in it. However, that doesn’t take away from how entertaining the story can get.