Surround sound is hooked up, and though some wires still need to be hidden in the walls, that doesn’t really impact the use. What does impact the use is the lack of furniture in my basement/theatre area. Time to get a TARDIS, larger “traditional” vehicle or a Green Lantern power ring….ah to have friends with trucks eh?
So someone made a movie about the invention of the first vibrator in Victorian England. Somehow they cast Hugh Dancy, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Jonathan Pryce and Felicity Jones. Sorry, when I was watching the special features to Hysteria, this intro line came to me and sounded a lot better that it’s turning into now. Clearly I’ve forgotten all the poignant thoughts I had then, but it would have ended up somehow with “of course I had to review it, because that’s kind of what I do these days”. This will likely be a short review, because I’m tired on top of stupid. I should know better than to stay up all hours of the night writing these, especially on the day when I’ve been up since 6:30 for a staff meeting. I think I wasted that hour we gained from the end of Daylight Savings Time….though not by watching the movie.
Hysteria follows the somewhat true story of Dr. Mortimer Granville (Hugh Dancy), a Victorian doctor who is frustrated when his employers will not keep up with the latest medical science. Touting the importance of clean bandages and washing hands over a course of leaches and salt tablets, he has been employed and released by at least five different hospitals in the last year. Eventually he comes to the employ of the overworked Dr. Robert Dalrymple (Jonathan Pryce) who specializes in the treatment of “hysteria”, a catch all diagnosis applied to women who exhibited a wide array of symptoms including faintness, nervousness, sexual desire, insomnia, fluid retention, heaviness in abdomen, muscle spasm, shortness of breath, irritability, loss of appetite for food or sex, and “a tendency to cause trouble”. Since ancient times women considered to be suffering from hysteria would sometimes undergo “pelvic massage” — manual stimulation of the genitals by the doctor until the patient experienced “hysterical paroxysm” or orgasm…and yes, I lifted that right from Wikipedia. Granville excels at his job of delivering pelvic massages until he suffers from a debilitating wrist cramp, and is soon fired from yet another medical practice. But fear not, his friend and benefactor Sir Edmund St. John-Smythe (Rupert Everett) has been experimenting and dabbling with electricity, and his invention of an electric feather duster is quickly adapted by the pair into the world’s first vibrator, which quickly sets Granville back up in practice, back in the financial black, and back in the good graces of Dr. Dalrymple, and his lovely daughter.
Hysteria is a variety of movies in one. It is equal parts a social commentary on the status of women in the 1890s; a commentary on the advancement (and resistance to) of medical science and the technological age; a fairly predictable romantic comedy; and a very funny comedy about the “taboo” subject of vibrators. As seems the case in many period pieces and many romantic comedies in general I suppose, the good Dr. Dalrymple has two lovely daughters, the very picture of “British” Emily played by Felicity Jones, and the social rights activist Charlotte played by Maggie Gyllenhaal. Who will Dr. Granville end up with? Well, it’s rather obvious when you watch it, but I won’t spoil it here, or perhaps it is just obvious to me because I have seen so many movies; though really not that many in the “rom-com” genre I suppose… Setting aside that aspect of the film, because I’m a bitter old fool, there were still a lot of laughs in this one. The story moved along at a good pace, with humour in almost every scene, and the entire cast did an outstanding job. There was one scene where Dr. Granville and Emily Dalrymple were walking through a park and see a pair of ducks in a pond. The setup to the joke and the actor’s reactions were amazing. This bit had me laughing out loud in my living room for a good minute after it was over. While I enjoyed everyone in the movie, I think that Everett really stole every scene he was in, deliciously enjoying his character’s own “naughtiness” juxtaposed with his position in proper English society. And proof that Doctor Who really is everywhere, Felicity Jones (Emily Dalrymple) was previously in Who as “The Unicorn” in the classic fourth series episode “The Wasp and the Unicorn”.
To sum up, if you’re looking for a bit of a naughty laugh, enjoy a little Hysteria.