A spirited mixture of costume drama and slapstick comedy that screened as a Gala Presentation at the 2011 Toronto International Film Festival®, Hysteria
recounts the titillating true story of one of the Victorian era’s less publicized, but most beneficial, innovations: yes, this is the very first film to recreate the invention of the vibrator.
In 1880’s London, Mortimer Granville (Hugh Dancy, Martha Marcy May Marlene, The Jane Austen Book Club) is a brilliant young doctor whose progressive ideas about germ theory and hygiene have alienated him from the medical establishment. When he is ousted from his latest residency, he finds himself working with London’s “foremost specialist in women’s medicine,” Dr. Robert Dalrymple (Jonathan Pryce, De-Lovely, The Affair of the Necklace). That lofty title means that Dalrymple is an expert in “hysteria,” a malaise diagnosed so liberally — covering everything from nervousness to insomnia to loss of appetite for food or sex to a vaguely defined “tendency to cause trouble” — that the good doctor hypothesizes at least half the city’s women are sufferers.
To ease these patients’ stress, Dalrymple has developed a form of therapy that involves the careful manual stimulation of a certain female body part, which inspires Granville to collaborate with his gadget-enthusiast friend (Rupert Everett, Stage Beauty, A Midsummer’s Night Dream) on the invention of the first vibrator. Key to this innovation was Granville’s association with Dalrymple’s very different daughters, the prim Emily (Felicity Jones, Like Crazy, The Tempest) and the brash, outspoken Charlotte (Maggie Gyllenhaal, Crazy Heart, Stranger Than Fiction) — a love triangle that reflects the divide between Victorian repression and the coming women’s movement and drive for sexual liberation. Shot in a gorgeous recreation of nineteenth-century London,
featuring swift direction from Tanya Wexler and pithy performances from its star-studded cast, Hysteria is, as it should be, a pleasure.
"One of the smartest, funniest and most charming movies of the year." - Richard Roeper, Richard Roeper.com
Director: Tanya Wexler
Cast:: Maggie Gyllenhaal, Hugh Dancy and Jonathan Pryce
Country: UK, France, Germany, Luxembourg
Distributor: Entertainment One
Ratings: ON NR / BC NR / AB NR / SK NR / MB NR / QC NR / Maritmes NR
* Represents an approximate date. Please consult local listings.