Review of Hysteria


Hysteria Movie Review --

Rating: R
Length: 100 minutes
Release Date: May 18, 2012
Directed By: Tanya Wexler
Genre: Comedy
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

"Hysteria" is a bold and humorous comedy that focuses on one of the funniest topics of all: sex. Director Tanya Wexler brings the same stylistic sensibility she brought to the films "Bold North" and "Ball in the House," telling the story of the invention of the female vibrator. It's the kind of movie that you watch once and decide you want to watch it again.

Charlotte Dalrymple (Maggie Gyllenhaal, "Secretary," "The Dark Knight," "Sherrybaby") is a young woman with an eye on the future. She believes that women should have the same rights as men, which puts her in an awkward position as she currently lives in London during the late 19th century. Charlotte is vocal with the idea that all women deserve equality, especially when it comes to their bodies. She tells anyone and everyone who will listen that at some point, women will gain control over their bodies.

If that sounds like a buildup to the main premise of the movie, it's because it shows the audience that Charlotte has bigger ideas than she might admit. The film gives Charlotte her perfect match in the form of Dr. Mortimer Granville (Hugh Dancy, "Martha Marcy May Marlene," "The Jane Austen Book Club," "Confessions of a Shopaholic"). Dr. Granville finds himself stuck in the same situation as Charlotte because he has an eye to the future. He tries his hand at modern medicine, but he quickly discovers that the others working in Victorian London prefer the old methods.

When Dr. Granville finds a new job, his colleagues introduce him to the "disease" of hysteria. Dr. Robert Dalrymple (Jonathon Pryce, "Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End," "GI Joe: The Rise of Cobra") is the city's leading expert on hysteria, a condition that he believes only affects women. Watching the movie, the viewer cannot help noticing that Dr. Dalrymple only treats wealthy women living in the city.

Dr. Dalrymple explains that hysteria occurs because of a condition called a wandering uterus. He believes that the only treatment that will help these women is a personal massage. Dr. Granville quickly learns that this involves setting a half-dressed woman in stirrups in the doctor's office and giving her a pelvic massage. While it might sound like a dream job for some men, Dalrymple maintains that he keeps an objective eye and only offers the procedure on women who truly need it.

Granville moves into Dalrymple's house, and he meets Dalrymple's young daughter Charlotte. He also meets her sister Emily (Felicity Jones, "Like Crazy," "Cemetery Junction"), and the two decide to marry. The two sisters are as different as night and day; Charlotte spends time working with the poor and homeless, while Emily studies and prepares for her life as a doctor's wife.

The movie is a little slow going until "Hysteria" introduces the character of Edmund St. John-Smythe (Rupert Everett, "Stardust," "My Best Friend's Wedding"). Edmund enjoys working with electricity, which he shows to Granville, his adopted brother. Granville suffers from hand cramps due to the massages he administers daily, and Edmund shows him how to relieve his pain with one of his newest gadgets. Granville eventually discovers a method of harnessing that electricity in the form of a hand-held massager, which woman can use instead of visiting the office.

"Hysteria" is a fun comedy that reminds the audience that adults can enjoy jokes without potty humor thrown in the mix. Even though Adam Sandler and Seth Rogan are nowhere in sight, the movie still manages to elicit laughs from the audience. Some of the jokes are the kind that require some thought, and a few of the jokes might go over the heads of those not paying attention, but there are more than enough humorous moments for everyone in the crowd.

Much of the movie relies on the amazing chemistry between Gyllenhaal and Dancy. Though he proposes to her sister, Charlotte just can't stay away from the handsome young doctor. Even as he promises to spend his life with Emily, the viewer can't help wishing that he would admit to his feelings and run away with the other sister. "Hysteria" plays on the role of women in society, and the movie focuses on how some things never change. Between the beautiful costumes, scenery, and superb acting, it's the kind of movie that you will watch again and again.