A spirited mixture of costume drama and slapstick comedy, 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 1880s London, Mortimer Granville (Hugh Dancy, 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. 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). That lofty title means that Dalrymple is an expert in “hysteria,” a malaise diagnosed so liberally 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, 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, Julie and Julia) and the brash, outspoken Charlotte (Maggie Gyllenhaal, Stranger Than Fiction) — a love triangle that reflects the divide between Victorian repression and the oncoming women’s movement and drive for sexual liberation.
Shot in a gorgeous re-creation of nineteenth-century London, and featuring swift direction from Tanya Wexler and pithy performances from its star-studded cast, Hysteria is, as it should be, a pleasure. Fnarr-fnarr.
Thank you to this movie’s sponsor
Royal LePage, Lakes of Muskoka
Sherry has been a Spinning Reels sponsor for several years now. Thanks for supporting Muskoka’s movie culture, Sherry!