- Published on Tuesday, 12 June 2012 09:44
- Written by Martin D Goodkin
Only the British could make a film about the invention of the vibrator and indicate women having orgasms without showing couples having sex or anyone being rude, or crude, using the “F” word and still making the audience laugh. “Hysteria” is a film with a sparkling performance by Maggie Gyllenhaal playing Charlotte, a woman who believes in women’s rights right now and lights up the screen with her determination.
The time is in the 1880s when most ‘women’s problems’ such as cramps, depression, nervousness and anxiety were treated by some doctors with their massaging the woman’s genital area, covered discreetly with a square curtain, not aware that they were giving the woman orgasms. Watching some of the reactions from the women are side splitting.
A very successful doctor, Robert Dalrymple, (Jonathan Pryce), who uses this method, always has a roomful of patients waiting so when a young doctor, Mortimer Granville, (Hugh Dancy) comes for a job Dr. Dalrymple hires him in spite of the fact that the young doctor has been let go from many jobs. The latter believes in recent studies regarding germs theories and other new medical studies. More than anything Dr. Granville believes in the Hippocratic Oath and helping people.
Doctor Dalrymple has two daughters, the older one being the aforementioned Charlotte who runs a settlement house for the poor, getting money from her father, his rich friends, and anyone else, who eventually is cut off by her father. The other daughter, Emily (Felicity Jones) is the lady, and good daughter, any father would be proud of and who is proposed to by Granville. Does anyone have to be told where this part of the story is heading?
The younger doctor has an inventor friend, Edmund , (Rupert Everett) who comes up with an electric powered duster which in turn is used on the carpal tunnel syndrome that Granville gets from the work he is doing on the patients and is the beginning of the vibrator as we know it today..
The screenplay, by Stephen Dyer and his wife Jonah Lisa Dyer, is light, funny and avoids the smirks that could have easily been incorporated in the film but at the same time does make fun of the obvious turns the script takes. The production values from the sets to the costumes to the surroundings of London in the 1880s are all first rate.
The film is directed by Tanya Wexler who handles the actors and camera with ease having very few false moments though, mainly because of the actors, when Hugh Dancy and Felicity Jones have scenes together everything becomes bland. Due, probably to the way his character is written and directed, it is hard to believe the ending.
The biggest surprise to me in the film was Rupert Everett, not because of his role, who I did not recognize until the end credits. By the way this is the latest of films that you have to make sure to stay for the ending credits.
“Hysteria”, as the opening credit states, is based on a true story but it certainly plays with the truth for good.