HysteriaDirector: Tanya Wexler, Hopscotch Films, Rated M, 100 mins
This amusing romantic comedy from occasional director Tanya Wexler (having earlier made Ball in the House in 2001) is set in Victorian London and centres on the development of the vibrator that is invented by an English doctor who designs a device to treat Victorian women diagnosed with a medical condition known as “hysteria” or simply put, those requiring to be stimulated in order to experience sexual pleasure.
After his dissatisfaction with his former medical establishment, Dr Mortimer Granville (Hugh Dancy - Martha Marcy May Marlene) joins the private medical practice of Dr Robert Dalrymple (Jonathan Price - G.I. Joe) who needs an extra pair of hands to help him treat the many wealthy women with such a condition through manual manipulation.
Besides the movie’s touchy subject matter there is also the romantic side of the storyline involving Granville’s interest in one of Dalrymple’s two daughters, the demure Emma (Felicity Jones - Chalet Girl) and the out-going Charlotte (Maggie Gyllenhaal - The Dark Knight) who runs a refuge for destitute families, believing that Granville’s expertise could be better utilised helping them instead of her father in treating hysteria sufferers.
Not surprisingly Granville soon suffers a repetitive strain injury which encourages him to team up with his inventive step-brother Edmund (Rupert Everett - Wild Target) to devise a device designed to satisfy his many female clients-as well as lessen the burden on his hands.
In some respects Dancy’s performance is overshadowed by Gyllenhaal whose portrayal of Charlotte is both charming and entertaining while Wexler has incorporated some wonderful costumes and settings for her period piece, she still appears to have taken a frivolous approach to the malaise afflicting the many wealthy women of that era.
Even though the movie may not be hysterical, Hysteria will have some in the audience feeling satisfied after seeing the many manipulations undertaken by Doctors Dalrymple and Granville.
VIC'S VERDICT: 3 Rubber Stamps
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