Hysteria

First Hit:  Although a bit uneven, this film was surprisingly funny and interesting.

This is a film about the invention of women’s vibrators.

This may seem like an odd subject and make one skeptical of why the film will be seen by people in a movie theater. However, this film ties together the women’s movement, sexual freedom, and the misperception by the male medical community and many women that women couldn’t have pleasure in sex.

Mortimer Granville (played by Hugh Dancy) is a doctor that cannot believe that medical practice, as practiced by most hospitals in his time (late 19 Century), ignores scientific proof of the existence of germs, thinks that bleeding people with leeches is the go-to cure-all, and hooking up with pharmaceutical makers (OK this is still practiced today) is the only way to survive as a doctor.

He’s fired from yet another hospital because he wants to clean a wound versus bleeding the wound. He finds work with Dr. Robert Dalrymple (Jonathan Price) who has a private practice only treating women’s hysteria. But, what he actually does is masturbate women who find the results to be a release of their frustrations and dis-pleasurable temperaments.

Back in those times, women we’re thought of not being able to have any sexual pleasurable. Dalrymple has two daughters, Emily (Felicity Jones) and Charlotte (Maggie Gyllenhaal) who are very different in their participation in life. Emily is of the mindset to be of her father’s ilk and thinks women belong in the kitchen and taking care of the house.

Charlotte, on the other hand, knows women can have sexual pleasure, believes in helping the poor, and think women should vote and have something more to bring to the world than a "well-run house". Granville, excels at his new practice of curing women's moments of hysteria, but suffers from hand cramps.

When he fails to “cure” one of Dr. Dalrymple’s clients he gets fired. When his friend Edmund St. John-Smythe (played by Rupert Everett) shows him an electrical fan, he discovers that the vibration helps his cramping hand. He then pulls off the feathers and asks a women to allow him to try it out on her. She totally enjoys it.

Granville and John-Smythe license their machines which become portable and it changes women’s enjoyment of sex from then on.

There is a side story about relationships between Granville and the Dalrymple girls but it is obvious what will happen.

Dancy shows a nativity and smartness to carry off this role with a bit of tongue-in-cheek and intelligence. Price is good as a Dr. who is protective of his practice and belief. Jones is OK as a girl who does what she thinks she is supposed to do. Gyllenhaal steals every scene she is in. Everett is very strong as a renegade aristocrat. Steven and Jonah Lisa Dyer wrote a script that was mixed with tongue-in-cheek-ness and historical innovation. Tanya Wexler directed this film in a way that makes this subject both interesting and funny.

Overall: This film won’t win many awards but it rewarded everyone in the theater by being both enjoyable and informative.