Romantic comedy and true story about how Dr. Mortimer Granville invented the world's first electromechanical vibrator in 1880 Britain as a cure for female hysteria. Stars Maggie Gyllenhaal and Rupert Everett. Now playing nationwide.
It’s easy to chuckle with a bit of 21st Century superiority at how little we seemed to know about medical science just over a hundred years ago, but who knows how our beliefs are going to be viewed in the future? “Quantum mechanics, stem cells, what a load of bollocks” perhaps.
Adding outmoded sexual notions to the mix, as Hysteria does, is another source of easy laughs, but unfortunately the film doesn’t mine this territory for gags as effectively as somewhat similarly themed The Road to Wellville – the only other non-pornographic film that comes to mind in which therapeutic clitoral massages are an important element.
Despite its subject matter, Hysteria is a rather polite comedy that only sparingly uses ribald humour, and then in a manner that’s a bit too much of a pander to the audience. It’s more a lightweight tale about gender roles in the late 19th Century, and easy-going period rom-com for the older set than a taboo-buster.
The relationship between young physician Mortimer Granville (Dancy) and the daughters of his boss Dalrymple is central, proto-feminist Charlotte (Gyllenhaal) rubbishing the idea of hysteria, an opinion that puts her at odds with Granville – who despite grooming the other Dalrymple daughter for marriage between ‘treating’ his patients is clearly enraptured with this firebrand.
Displaying the bare minimum of humour, tension or romance, Hysteria goes through the motions without eliciting much of a reaction despite its seemingly racy subject matter.