If you never thought you could watch a movie about vibrators with your whole family, the fun new period romp "Hysteria" will prove you wrong.
Starring some of Britain's finest (Hugh Dancy, Felicity Jones, Jonathan Pryce, Rupert Everett) and one Yank (Maggie Gyllenhaal), "Hysteria" is a romantic comedy based on the surprising true story behind how the first mechanical vibrator was invented. If that doesn't intrigue you, then we can't help you.
The dashing Dancy plays Mortimer Granville, an out-of-work doctor who finds a job working for Dr. Robert Dalrymple, a progressive gent who specializes in treating 'hysteria' in women by, um, using his hands (we'll let you use your imagination). As it turns out, Granville is ambidextrous, which helps his boss' business soar; but when his hands eventually give out, Granville enlists the aid of his friend (Everett) to come up with a solution.
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The romantic-comedy aspect of the plot revolves around a love triangle between Granville and Dalrymple's two beautiful daughters, the prim and proper Emily (Jones) and the feisty feminist Charlotte (Gyllenhaal). Guess who he falls for in the end?
"Hysteria" has a lot going on, but it all gels remarkably well owing to the efforts of newbie director Tanya Wexler, who crafts a fun, breezy and hilarious film with stellar turns from its formidable cast.
Gyllenhaal walks away with the picture thanks to her brazen turn as a woman way ahead of her time. Sporting an English accent to rival Gwyneth Paltrow's in "Sliding Doors," Gyllenhaal is a total force on screen. This is miles from her subtle Oscar-nominated work in "Crazy Heart," and more along the lines of her freaky-sweet role in "Secretary." Charlotte is the type of character who never holds back. The best scenes in "Hysteria" are of her sparring with Dancy, who's also in top form here. They make for quite the pair.
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Jones, meanwhile, proves that her breakout turn in "Like Crazy" was no fluke, with a very different performance that showcases her range as a performer. And the ever-dependable Pryce is commanding as always.
Though "Hysteria" is a film about how the first vibrator came to be, there's something undeniably wholesome about the way Wexler's brought this tale to the screen. That's not to say her film doesn't feature a slew of women experiencing earth-shattering orgasms (there are plenty of those), it's just that "Hysteria" doesn't treat its subject matter salaciously, but matter-of-factly.
And if indeed you do end up seeing this with your 'rents, there's always the romantic-comedy plotline to fall back on if things get awkward.