Director(s): Tanya Wexler
Genre(s): Comedy, Romance
Release Date (USA): May 20, 2012
"Well, all’s well that ends well. Ah, fresh air and perambulation, the key to mental acuity and long life.” –Dr. Robert DalrympleA handsome young doctor… A new career… A new love… And her sister. An invention with a surprising spark that turned on half the world. This movie isn’t about what you think it’s about. Just watch the trailer. Well, crap. Forget I said that. This movie is exactly what you think it’s about. But wait! Don’t let the sensitive nature of it fool you, because there’s more here than ladybits and pleasure toys. Just trust me on this one, mmk?
Set in the throes of a Victorian-era London, Dr. Mortimer Granville (Hugh Dancy) assists the ever-popular, Dr. Dalrymple, in treating women diagnosed with hysteria. With symptoms ranging from exhaustion and nervousness to cramps, depression and sexual frustration, just about every woman in London could be diagnosed with the malady! In an effort to find a better way to treat this ailment, Dr. Granville with a little help from his friend/benefactor, Edmund St. John-Smythe (Rupert Everett), invents the first vibrator. And yes, there’s also a love story thrown in for good measure as Dr. Dalrymple’s two daughters (Maggie Gyllenhaal & Felicity Jones) battle to win Dr. Granville’s attention and affection.
Wexler was smart in her choice of casting, using underrated actors with a strong repertoire who could be funny without being kitschy. Gyllenhaal and Dancy had just the right amount of tension and chemistry needed to fuel their explosive onscreen relationship; Everett, as usual, pulled off class and charm with ease and Jones was prim and proper without falling into the category of “stuffy.” Gyllenhall was the total embodiment of female empowerment in this movie. See, women in 19th Century England suffered to no end and she fought to change all that, which is what I loved most about her. Though a bit extreme in her measures at times, she had passion and conviction. And that is why she stole the show. She was brilliant, simply brilliant.
To be frank, Hysteria caught me by surprise. Upon first glance, this movie was nothing like what I expected it to be and that’s a good thing. Given the rather risqué subject matter, it had all the potential to go too far. These days it’s too easy venturing into crude territory using the gross-out humour to which we’ve become accustom. But Wexler didn’t do that. Instead, she took the high road and produced a smart and clever rom-com with sensibility and heart at its very core. Make no mistake, on the surface Hysteria is about a certain pleasurable device but it’s also a story about progressive thinking, belief in change and love, and a funny one at that. The humour wasn’t in-your-face or raunchy, instead Wexler settling on subtlety and wit. In the end, the characters facilitated change whether it be for themselves, the medical community or all of womenkind, and that folks, is a story I can jive to. More simply put—I. LOVED. This. Film.
Summary PrognosisI adored this movie and it makes me sad that more people haven’t heard of it. It’s one of those rare gems that pulls off a touchy (I’m sorry, I had to do it) subject matter with both class and intelligence. While still being funny, Hysteria also manages to juggle some heavier topics without indignation or being too heavy handed (haha, get it). Overall, it’s a film with heart and was a lot of fun to watch!
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