Film: Hysteria (2011)
Cast includes: Hugh Dancy (Black Hawk Down), Maggie Gyllenhaal (Secretary), Jonathan Pryce (Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest), Felicity Jones (Like Crazy), Rupert Everett (The Importance of Being Earnest)
Director: Tanya Wexler (Ball in the House)
Genre: Comedy | Drama | Romance (100 minutes)
"I truly don't know why I'm here, Doctor... this feeling just comes over me." Dr. Dairymple hears complaints like this all day long. Across town, Mortimer Granville's patients rarely have such complaints. In 1880, London's Westminster Hospital is the kind of place where patients come when they're at death's door. Dr. Granville is fighting a losing battle... especially on issues like "germ theory." "Poppycock! Our patients need calm assurance, regular bleeding and Beekman's Pills." Granville loses yet another job. "I fear the world is set against me," he tells his best friend. When Granville applies for a job at Dairymple's private practice, he finds the waiting room filled with well-heeled, middle-aged women who certainly don't look sick... until an obviously hysterical young woman burst through the door, carrying on about "charlatans."
When Dr. Dairymple realizes that Granville is here about the position, it's a huge relief. "What do you know of hysteria? Half the women of London are affected. It's the plague of our time... caused by an overactive uterus." When Dariymple demonstrates his method ("Apply oil of musk... good steady pressure... slowly... circular motion"), the effect is quite astonishing! Granville is "keen to help -- an opportunity to offer relief to patients without killing them." "£4 a week, plus room and board." And upon meeting Dairymple's beautiful daughter, the job has even more appeal. Later in the week, Granville learns that the hysterical young woman from before is actually Dairymple's other daughter, a feisty feminist, who always needs money for the settlement house, an institution her father completely disapproves of.
As it turns out, Granville has the healing touch. Before long the practice is solidly booked, and Granville can hardly keep up with the demand. The affliction of his success, however, turns out to be hand cramps. Add to the narrative a friend with a passion for electromechanical inventions, a few plot twists and turns, and we eventually get to the invention of the first vibrator -- not as a sex toy, mind you. It's strictly a labor-saving device for doctors. Dr. Mortimer Granville did, in fact, patent the first electromechanical vibrator in the 1880s. Doctors did, in fact, administer this therapy for a female affliction called "hysteria," thinking it had nothing to do with sex. The humor comes mostly from the fact that we see the absurdity of the concept from the Victorian point of view. It must have been difficult to avoid overworking the humor. But as it turns out, the filmmakers seemed to have found the sweet spot and "applied good steady pressure."
2 popped kernels (Scale: 0-4)
In Victorian England, the vibrator was invented as a labor-saving device for doctors treating a female condition called "hysteria"
Rated: R (Sexual content)
Distribution: Mainstream limited release & art house
Tempo: Cruises comfortably
Visual Style: High-end production
Character Development: Engaging
Language: True to life
Social Significance: Pure entertainment & Thought provoking
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