Movie Reviews

‘Hysteria’: It buzzes, but not always at the right speed

By Wei Wen SngMovies - 25 July 2012 11:07 AM | Updated 11:30 AM

‘Hysteria’: It buzzes, but not always at the right speed

Back then, using a vibrator was an exact science

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Rating: 3 stars out of 5

Directed by Tanya Wexler, ‘Hysteria’ pulls us back into rigid, old Victorian London, and our protagonist here is Mortimer Granville (Hugh Dancy), a young, idealistic doctor struggling to establish himself.

Finding himself fired so many times, he joins the practice of Dr. Dalrymple (Christopher Pryce), who specializes in hysteria. Hysteria, as we learn later on, is really a euphemism for female sexual starvation.

Unfortunately, he becomes so popular that he suffers from carpal tunnel and ends up creating (with the help of his best friend and benefactor, Rupert Everett’s Edmund St. John Smith) the very first vibrator. From then on, women now have a way to pleasure themselves and they all live happily ever after. 

The story line is cute and watchable enough. The movie, however tries to put on an overly moralistic tone that somehow manages to ruin the fun of watching a movie on the invention of, a fun, for the lack of a better word, object.

The message to promote women’s rights is all good and clear, yet, when constantly lectured through the mouth of Emily Dalrymple, played Maggie Gyllenhaal --  it is almost easy to imagine why it was such a disliked. Emily Dalrymple is brave, intelligent and compassionate, yet she has her moments as well. At her sister Charlotte’s engagement party for example, it is obvious that she does fancy Dr. Granville, who also happens to be Charlotte’s fiance. Why champion women’s rights, when it’s not even apparent in the family?

That's not a raygun, its a, umm, vibrator

Emily’s sister Charlotte, played by Felicity Jones, on the other hand, is a lot more likeable. Bound by duty to her father and his social climbing schemes, she is full of admiration and regard for her boisterous sister, yet unable to fulfil her own desires. Jones, recently seen in the flick ‘Albatross’, excels at playing demure goody two shoes, and this role is no different. The message here is clear, if you’re going to be nice and sweet and play the piano and listen to daddy, you’re going to have your dreams crushed. Wait, shouldn’t womens’ rights cover her too?

But enough of our beef with the film’s stance on women’s rights: The real buzz of the film is Edmundsun St John-Smythe (Rupert Everett), Mortimer’s very rich, effete best friend. Mortimer, trying his best to make a name for himself, pales in comparison to the dandy. Everett has all the best lines, and he deadpans, smoulders and sniggers his way through, with excellent comic timing. Dancy, is okay, if a bit of a bore. Dancy is good looking, but it downplays the struggle he faces when deciding whether or not to do what’s right, or to do what he wants.

All in all, this film is generally decent, although a little strange. It is good that the film does try to remind people of equal rights, but in reality, it should really remind itself not to take itself too seriously.

‘Hysteria’ opens in theatres 26 July 2012