Skip to: Content
Skip to: Site Navigation
Skip to: Search


Hysteria: movie review

While 'Hysteria' has some funny performances, the humor in the movie is played too broadly.

By Peter RainerFilm critic / May 18, 2012

In 'Hysteria,' starring Hugh Dancy and Maggie Gyllenhaal, it seems as if the director and screenwriters felt they had to work in the social issues of the Victorian age to justify the movie's risqué humor.

Liam Daniel/Sony Pictures Classics/AP

Enlarge

The opening credits for the new comedy “Hysteria,” starring Hugh Dancy and Maggie Gyllenhaal, informs us that “this story is based on true events. Really.” Really? The story is about how the vibrator was accidentally invented back in the prudish days of Victorian England.
 
Dancy’s Dr. Mortimer Granville has forward-looking ideas about medicine – no leeches, no bleeding of his patients – that consistenly get him into trouble. Needing a job, he winds up as the assistant to Dr. Dalrymple (Jonathan Pryce, at his most archly comic), who specializes in treating female “hysteria” by manually releasing their “nervous tension.” He also has two daughters, the prim and marriageable Emily (Felicity Jones) and the abrasive suffragette Charlotte (Gyllenahaal). Guess who Mortimer falls for?

Skip to next paragraph
Watch trailer.

When Mortimer’s wealthy, rakish inventor friend Edmund (a very funny Rupert Everett) comes up with the idea for the vibrator, Dalrymple’s practice takes off. Director Tanya Wexler and her screenwriters, Stephen Dyer and Jonah Lisa Dyer, are more at home with sexual shenanigans than suffragette posturings. It’s as if they felt they had to work all that socially conscious stuff into the mix in order to justify the risqué humor. Even the humor is played too broadly – another notch and we’d be in “Monty Python” territory, though not half as witty.

Perhaps the funniest thing about “Hysteria” is Gyllenhaal’s comment at a press conference for it at last year’s Toronto Film Festival. She called it “the feel-good film of the year.” Grade: C+ (Rated R for sexual content.)

Permissions

Read Comments

View reader comments | Comment on this story

  • Weekly review of global news and ideas
  • Balanced, insightful and trustworthy
  • Subscribe in print or digital

Special Offer

 

Doing Good

 

What happens when ordinary people decide to pay it forward? Extraordinary change...

Endeavor Global, cofounded by Linda Rottenberg (here at the nonprofit’s headquarters in New York), helps entrepreneurs in emerging markets.

Linda Rottenberg helps people pursue dreams – and create thousands of jobs

She's chief executive of Endeavor Global, a nonprofit group that gives a leg up to budding entrepreneurs.

 
 
Become a fan! Follow us! Google+ YouTube See our feeds!