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Hysteria - Cinemaholic Movie Reviews
one person's obsessive addiction to film
Directing: B
Acting: B+
Writing: B
Cinematography: B
Editing: B+

Considering it's about the invention of the vibrator, Hysteria is almost peculiarly wholesome. It's a period piece, after all, set in late 19th Century England, so there's a lot of characters posturing in the name of propriety. Also, naturally, there's Jonathan Pryce. He's the doctor treating countless upper-class women for the supposed condition of "Hysteria."

These women come in to see the doctor, who puts their legs into stirrups, places a sort of squared curtain around their legs for modesty's sake, and then proceeds to "cure" them by providing a manually administered orgasm. This doctor, Dr. Dalrymple, doesn't believe women capable of having an orgasm, of course. We get the obligatory line stating that women's reproductive parts are completely incapable of sensing pleasure. Meanwhile, women are moaning in pleasure.

Too many of them. Dr. Dalrymple can't keep up with his patients. Enter Dr. Granville (Hugh Dancy), a young man disgusted by his contemporaries not even subscribing to the notion of germs, and thus constantly getting fired for not following orders. Dalrymple hires him happily. There's a montage of women getting "treatment." Granville's hand starts to cramp.

Meanwhile, Granville is falling for Dalrymple youngest daughter, Emily (Felicity Jones), while at the same time bemused by Emily's shockingly, for her time, progressive sister, Charlotte (Maggie Gyllenhaal). We can see miles ahead where this is going. The love story actually bears little connection to the invention of the "electronic massager," an idea that comes from Granville's electronics-obsessed friend (played by an almost unrecognizable Rupert Everett). It feels both obligatory and a bit unnecessary, but at least it lets us see Maggie Gylenhaal, who does a lot with a relatively limited part and is arguably the most compelling performer in this movie.

Hysteria suffers slightly from Too Many Writers Syndrome. There are fully five writer credits, and its transparently formulaic story arc makes it feel like it was written by committee. It lacks a singular vision, which a story like this really needs. It certainly doesn't need speeches in courtroom scenes met by applause from onlooking crowds.

That said, it's still a fun movie -- harmless and amusing. The cast has a collective charm that makes it easy to forgive the flaws in the telling of the story, "based on true events." Certainly things didn't happen this tidily in real life. But in movie form, the story is unoffensive and entertaining. What more do you want? Okay, maybe a little more depth would have been good; maybe some greater realism. But one gets the sense that director Tanya Wexler wasn't so much concerned about those things as simply telling a story audiences will get a kick out of. As far as that goes, it delivers.

Hugh Dancy an Maggie Gyllenhaal differ in definitions of HYSTERIA.

Overall: B+
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