‘Hysteria’ Movie Review
Most women have no idea how or when the vibrator was invented; they’re just glad that it was. But the origins of the world’s most popular sex toy are revealed in Tanya Wexler’s wonderfully funny new film, Hysteria. And although it’s set in the 1800’s, the story and the characters all seem very familiar.
“While it might be a 19th century story, it’s a subject that still makes us blush in 2011,” Wexler says, and she’s right. The movie tells the story of English physician Mortimer Granville (Hugh Dancy), who comes to work for Dr. Dalrymple (Jonathan Pryce), a man who specializes in treating female hysteria. What is hysteria? Well, simply put, it’s sexual frustration. Dalrymple’s cure? An orgasm. Not for pleasure, of course…that’s hardly Victorian…just for medicinal purposes.
Needless to say, his treatment was already very popular before he hired the young, handsome Granville; afterwards, the two doctors can barely keep up. When his hand gives out from exhaustion, Granville realizes that his friend, St. John-Smythe’s (Rupert Everett), electric feather dusting invention might be put to an entirely different use. Hence, the vibrator.
In the meanwhile, Granville falls for Dalrymple’s pretty, obedient younger daughter, Emily (Felicity Jones), but finds himself drawn to the elder daughter, Charlotte (Maggie Gyllenhaal), a reformist and a feminist who finds her father’s practice ridiculous. Will Granville choose the ideal woman or the woman who is ideal for him?
There are some truly laugh-out-loud moments in this film, and even if you think you’re very cool and totally immune to such things, there are also moments that will make your face turn red. The movie tackles a subject that many people would like to keep as taboo now as it was a hundred years ago. Female pleasure has always threatened the status quo; it is empowering and liberating and to very small men that’s a scary thing. That’s why this movie is far more important than it might appear. On the surface, it’s a sexy, funny tale about the vibrator. On a whole different level, it’s about women’s health and how important it is that such matters not be taken out of a woman’s control.
With a talented cast, the entire movie sparkles. Perhaps Maggie Gyllenhaal’s performance was a tad bit smiley at times, but she threw herself into the role wholeheartedly. Hugh Dancy is this generation’s Hugh Grant (only less floppy) and Jonathan Pryce is never not awesome.
Treat yourself to this movie, whether you go with your significant other or your girlfriends. Even if you’re hesitant. Just do it. Not only will you have a good time, but you’ll learn something about the history of women. Something they don’t teach in school.
Hysteria opens nationwide today, May 18th.