In an age of invention, one man set out to find a medical cure for what ailed women…and accidentally electrified our love lives forever. HYSTERIA is a lighthearted romantic comedy that tells the surprising story of the birth of the electro-mechanical vibrator at the very peak of Victorian prudishness. Academy Award® nominee Maggie Gyllenhaal (Best Supporting Actress, CRAZY HEART, 2009) and Hugh Dancy (ADAM, CONFESSIONS OF A SHOPAHOLIC) lead an accomplished cast in this untold tale of discovery.
What do women want? Well, science may debate that for years, but Hysteria
provides a very entertaining answer in the form of a historical romp through early psychology. Based on the story of a young British doctor who essentially invented the first vibrator, Hysteria
handles its offbeat subject matter lightly and amusingly. And its cast is splendid. Maggie Gyllenhaal and Felicity Jones play Victorian-era sisters, Charlotte and Emily, daughters of the prominent physician Dr. Dalrymple (Jonathan Pryce). Into their lives comes an ambitious, thoughtful young doctor, Mortimer Granville (played by the dreamy Hugh Dancy). Dr. Granville's life work has become focused on women's issues, including the all-encompassing diagnosis "hysteria," for which he is experimenting with therapeutic "pelvic massage" treatments. When he comes to Dr. Dalrymple for mentoring and approval of his rather unorthodox treatments, the doctor's two daughters vie for his romantic affections. In lesser hands, this film could have been a Victorian-era 40-Year-Old Virgin
or The (Sexual) Hangover
, but director Tanya Wexler keeps the action crisp, light, and focused. Hysteria
is a great date movie or a splendid escape for history, and hysteria, lovers. --A.T. Hurley