Jul 092012


It’s the end of the 19th century, and a condition known as ‘Hysteria’ is effecting a large number of London’s female residents. Luckily Dr Mortimer Granville is on the case with a “cure” which will impact millions of women in the years to come. Check out the review of Hysteria after the jump.

Dr Mortimer Granville (Hugh Dancy) is a man of science, who has been fired by many of London’s finest physicians due to his refusal to practice out-dated medicine. He eventually finds employment at the practice of Dr. Robert Dalrymple, a practice which specialises in the treatment of “hysteria”, a diagnosis given to women suffering from a large number of ailments such as depression, insomnia, exhaustion, and sexual frustration. The “treatment” involves the *cough* massaging of a women’s genital area. The administering of so many treatments causes the doctor to suffer from hand cramps, and after failing to “get the job done” *cough* he thinks his career is over. However, what happens next is not only the beginning of fame and fortune for the doctor, but also one of the most important developments in women’s sexual liberation.


As well as the accidental invention of the vibrator  (or the portable electric massager) Dr. Mortimer also has the two daughters of Dr. Robert Dalrymple to deal with – Emily (Felicity Jones) is the perfect lady who Dr Dalrymple would like see married off to Dr. Mortimer, while Charlotte (Maggie Gyllenhaal) is her sister’s opposite, wild and opinionated, and not at all a proper Victorian lady.

Based on a true story, Hysteria covers a topic that most films shy away from. I have to be honest and say I both cringed and blushed a few times. Watching a posh lady be “treated” for hysteria was both quite funny, and slightly uncomfortable. Perhaps I’m a bit of a prude, but I did find some of it a bit much. If there were an award for the film that contains the most double entendres, then this film would win it easily. It’s also a rather punnerific film – actually this whole review could be puns with a bit of moaning thrown in.

I found Price and Gyllenhaal’s characters to be rather one-dimensional, and a bit too stereotypical (one was the perfect lady, one was the rebel). While Charlotte was the voice for many women who did not have the courage or conviction to speak out, it was laid on just a little too think to be believable. On the other hand, I loved Edmund St. John-Smythe (Rupert Everett), a lover of technology with more money than sense, and Dr. Mortimer’s life-long friend. His eccentric behaviour was very amusing, and I loved the energy and comedy that he injected into every scene he was in.

The costumes and sets in the film were great, and I particularly loved the lounge-room of Edmund St. John-Smyth, with it’s odd collection of inventions and machinery. At 99 minutes long, the film is well-paced, and I although I did cringe, I was never bored.

Overall Hysteria is a light-hearted comedy which covers a rather different subject matter. It’s amusing enough to keep you entertained, but it didn’t always hit the spot for me.


The Facts

Director: Tanya Wexler
Writer(s): Stephen Dyer, Jonah Lisa Dyer (screenplay), Howard Gensler (original story)
Starring: Maggie Gyllenhaal, Hugh Dancy, Rupert Everett
Runtime: 99 minutes
Release date(s): Australia: July 12 2012; New Zealand: September 6 2012