Okay, I'm going to get through this review without
saying the word "Vibrator" once. Wait. Damn!
Well, this was a weird one. In case you didn't already know (Which, seeing as how this is a limited release, you probably don't know), Hysteria is set in 19th century England where Doctor Mortimer Granville (Hugh Dancy), who can't seem to hold a job for very long. That is until he enters the officer of Doctor Robert Dalrymple (Jonathan Pryce). Dalrymple practices curing "Female Hysteria", a disease that women get which symptoms that covers everything from restlessness to frustration to sexual desire. The cure is quite simple. The doctors... simply... uh... okay, well they kinda... to put it lightly... screw it. They pleasure a woman manually in order to relieve her Hysteria.
However, after a while, Granville's hand starts to give out from all the... ahem... constant motion of his treatments. So, he along with inventor friend Edmund (Rupert Everett) create the first electric vibrator. Along the way, Granville cross paths with Dalrymple's two daughters, sweet and obedient Emily (Felicity Jones) and the strong feminist Charlotte (Maggie Gyllenhaal). Soon Granville begins to find himself falling for both sisters, but which one will he choose? Gee, I wish she was on the poster so it would be obvious...
|That is exactly what you think that is.|
Not surprisingly, Hysteria isn't exactly your normal 19th century England period piece. And I'm not sure if that's a good thing or not. Sure, the movie's different and all, but is it good different? The strangest thing about Hysteria is it's strange mixing of tones and genres. The movie is one third period piece, one third romantic comedy and one third raunchy parody. In a movie that has scenes of men using vibrators on women like a science experiment and ending in a montage of vibrators throughout the ages, having serious scenes next to those, like a homeless women being beaten or a feminist speech in a court room is a jarring tonal shift and takes you out of the film.
I mean, I was never not aware I was watching a movie when I was watching Hysteria. I knew the actors were acting and I knew they were saying their lines from a script and I knew what I was watching wasn't making me care. Sure, fundamentally Hysteria is a well-made movie. The acting is fine and the sets and costumes are good. But, I found myself often checking how long was left in the movie before I could go do something else. I wasn't buying into the odd semi-parody and I didn't care what happened to the characters because I knew right from the beginning what was going to happening to the characters. For a movie about the invention if the vibrator, Hysteria plays it disappointingly safe.
|They are doing exactly what you think|
they are doing.
And that's really too bad. The invention of the vibrator could have been a solidly-done drama or a hilarious raunchy comedy. Instead, Hysteria fall flatly in the middle. I did hate it but there wasn't a whole lot to love either. The film tries to wear too many hats and it just looks silly. I mean, it ends on a montage of vibrator throughout the ages. And just look at the pictures from the review. They're wearing goggles for Christ's sake. Hysteria gets 3 stars out of 6.