Maggie Gyllenhaal in Hysteria


DIRECTOR: Tanya Wexler

CAST: Maggie Gyllenhaal, Hugh Dancy, Jonathan Pryce, Rupert Everett


RUNNING TIME: 100 minutes

RATING: 3 stars (out of 5)

Theresa Smith

Hugh Dancy courts Maggie Gyllenhaal in Hysteria, though he doesn’t know it in the beginning of the film. He plays Dr Mortimer Granville, who starts working for her father and gets to know a bit more about the suffragette movement and what women think of sex than he really wanted to know.

This is touted as the story of how Granville invented the vibrator in the late 1880s, which in itself is an interesting story.

But the filmmakers don’t take the idea of the title – the reference to the diagnoses of female hysteria in the Victorian era, which was discounted as a medical diagnosis only in the 1950s – seriously enough and play up the vibrator angle.

Dancy makes for a suitably grave young doctor, though Gyllenhaal – lovely as she is – istoo old for her role as Charlotte Dalrymple. She comes across as too sophisticated and worldly-wise for a character who is supposed to be young, idealistic and slightly naive.

Rupert Everett hides behind a bushy beard, but plays an even lighter version of his An Ideal Husband role, while Jonathan Pryce is all serious and stuffy as Dr Dalrymple.

This being a period romcom set in the Victorian era, expect serious hats and yards of material swathing serious-faced women.

The film suffers from the weirdest of conceits – despite being about how women were not being taken seriously, it doesn’t take itself seriously.

It doesn’t go all the way into farce or satire, but still treats the subject matter in a light-hearted manner. Okay, the situation is inherently funny when seen from 130 years later, but then it should’ve been an all-out comedy, which it is not.

All the serious information about female sexual liberation is lost amid the knowing winks and nods that don’t go far enough, so it’s not a farce or even satire.

What it is, is inoffensive which, considering the subject matter, makes for a plain boring movie that might amuse you while you’re watching, but is hardly memorable.

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