SOME LIGHT HYSTORICAL STIMULATION
Hysteria is a movie about the invention of the vibrator. It’s loosely based on the inventor of the electric vibrator, Joseph Mortimer Granville. (One of the first vibrators was actually a steam-power device invented by an American physician.)
Dr. Mortimer Granville (Hugh Dancy) is hired by Dr. Dalrymple (Jonathan Pryce), who runs a practice treating women with hysteria. Mortimer is extremely successful at his job and the practices acquires many more clients. Unfortunately, Mortimer begins to suffer from severe hand cramps. Mortimer’s friend and inventor, Lord Edmund St. John-Smythe (Rupert Everett), has developed an electrical feathered fan and it gives Mortimer the idea to modify it for the practice.
At the same time, the reserved Mortimer takes an immediate liking to Emily Dalrymple (Felicity Jones) but slowly becomes attracted to the passionate older sister, Charlotte (Maggie Gyllenhaal), a premodern feminist.
I say that this movie is loosely based on history because the film takes many licenses. Physicians used to treat women for hysteria for thousands of years before it was officially deemed a myth in 1952. During the Victorian era, masturbation was seen as inappropriate behavior, especially for women. In order to treat women for a variety of their symptoms which included but was not limited to insomnia, irritability, nervousness, they sought out doctors that prescribed a medicinal massage.
The film is a lighthearted look at this period in history with all of your traditional romantic comedy archetypes. The story is very simple. The two leads that butt heads but they find each other intriguing and eventually fall in love. The best friend of the lead that helps the protagonist in his mission. The protagonist rescues the headstrong heroine.
He fights for what he thinks is proper. She fights for what she thinks is right. They kinda both want the same thing but they approach it from opposite ends of the spectrum.
The characters in the movie aren’t too deeply developed as they feel like mere caricatures.
However, Hugh Dancy and Maggie Gyllenhaal are adorable. They have chemistry and are delightful on screen. While the script doesn’t fully take advantage of their skill as an actor, Mortimer and Charlotte’s purpose in the film are clearly established and you root for them both equally.
The ending seems a little abrupt as you are aware of where Mortimer’s heart lies more than Charlotte’s and so both of their declarations of love for each other wasn’t entirely convincing. But you get the picture and I found it easy to just go along with it.
Rupert Everett. Man, I don’t think I’ve seen him since 2003. (Shrek doesn’t count.) He’s aged quite a bit and I’m not sure the plastic surgery really works for him but he kinda fits the mold of this movie well. I suppose I’m saying that there’s something superficial about Rupert Everett but I thoroughly enjoy him. I prefer watching him (with the exception of My Best Friend’s Wedding) in period pieces because he’s so good at being those Oscar Wildean characters. Edmund Smythe is definitely one of those types: witty, charming and a bit of a cad.
I’ll have to admit that as savvy as we are about sex these days you can’t help but blush at certain scenes in the movie. And it’s not like the movie’s Rated NC-17. It’s more that the dialogue and innuendos make you blush rather than baring it all, if you get my drift. The movie is pretty light on the drama and history, aiming for the romantic comedy. That’s how the movie is advertised and that’s what you’re going to get.
If you’re looking for a post modernist look back at the invention of the world’s most popular sex toy and the beginnings of the modern feminist movement, you have obviously not watched the trailer or even taken a good look at the movie poster. However, I rather enjoyed the mindless entertainment of this movie and the cuteness factor of it.