Hysteria (2011 film)
|Directed by||Tanya Wexler|
|Produced by||Tracey Becker
|Written by||Jonah Lisa Dyer
|Music by||Gast Waltzing
|Editing by||Jon Gregory|
Chimera Films LLC
by alternative pictures
arte France Cinéma
|Distributed by||BIM Distribuzione|
|Running time||95 minutes|
Hysteria is a 2011 British period romantic comedy film directed by Tanya Wexler. It stars Hugh Dancy and Maggie Gyllenhaal, with Felicity Jones, Jonathan Pryce, and Rupert Everett appearing in key supporting roles. The film, set in the Victorian era, shows how the medical management of hysteria led to the invention of the vibrator. The film's title refers to the once-common medical diagnosis of female hysteria.
Set at the end of the 19th century, the film depicts the invention of the vibrator. Dr. Mortimer Granville (Hugh Dancy) is a young physician who has difficulty with his occupation due to constant arguments over modern medicine. He gets a job assisting Dr. Dalrymple (Jonathan Pryce), whose practice specializes in the treatment of "hysteria", a popular diagnosis for women of that time. Medical practitioners like Dr. Dalrymple tried to manage hysteria by massaging the genital area, decently covered under a curtain, to elicit "paroxysmal convulsions", without recognizing that they were inducing orgasms. He meets Dr. Dalrymple's Victorian daughters, Emily (Felicity Jones), and her older sister Charlotte (Maggie Gyllenhaal), a premodern feminist who runs a settlement house in a poor section of London.
Granville seems to be good at massaging, getting a sizeable following, while at the same time Dr. Dalrymple proposes marriage between Emily and Granville. One night after work, Charlotte comes in with her friend Fannie (Ashley Jensen) who has broken her ankle. After he helps treat her, Dalrymple forbids Granville from offering any future assistance to Charlotte, hoping to dissuade her from her work in the slums. Meanwhile, the increased clientele at the practice is hard on Granville, and his hand musculature is unable to keep up with the task, leading to getting himself fired. Fortunately, his friend Lord Edmund St. John-Smythe has developed an electrical feather duster, and its vibrations give Dr. Granville the idea to modify the gadget for use as an electric massager. After successfully using it on the Dalrymple's maid Molly, he persuades Dr. Dalrymple to try the device on his patients, resulting in massive success. Mortimer and Emily then become engaged, while Charlotte struggles with supporting the welfare house.
At the engagement party, Charlotte is arrested after Fannie is almost reprimanded by a police officer. At the urge of Emily and Dr. Dalrymple, he decides to testify that she is hysterical in order to prevent her from getting life in prison. During the trial, the prosecutor recommends that Charlotte be sent to a sanitarium and be forced to undergo a hysterectomy. As Mortimer speaks, he explains that the symptoms for hysteria are too common to be regarded as a mental illness, and that he himself believes that Charlotte is the most generous and caring person he knows. The judge agrees with Mortimer's argument, and Charlotte gets sentenced to thirty days in prison.
Emily then decides to end their engagement after realizing she was only going to do it to please her father. As such, the vibrator enters the stage as a medical device for the treatment of the condition, reducing treatment time while greatly increasing customer satisfaction. The royalties from its sale result in independent wealth for Granville, who has since fallen in love with Charlotte. Pledging to use some of his wealth to establish a clinic at her settlement house, he proposes marriage to Charlotte and she accepts.
- Hugh Dancy as Dr. Mortimer Granville
- Maggie Gyllenhaal as Charlotte Dalrymple
- Jonathan Pryce as Dr. Robert Dalrymple
- Felicity Jones as Emily Dalrymple
- Rupert Everett as Lord Edmund St. John-Smythe
- Ashley Jensen as Fanny
- Sheridan Smith as Molly the Lolly
- Gemma Jones as Lady St. John-Smythe
- Malcolm Rennie as Lord St. John-Smythe
- Kim Criswell as Mrs. Castellari
- Georgie Glen as Mrs. Parsons
- Elisabet Johannesdottir as Mrs. Pearce
- Linda Woodhall as Nurse Smalley
- Kim Selby as Lady Wheaton
- Ann Overstall Comfort as Mrs. Huddleston
- Jonathan Rhodes as PC Fugate
- Leila Anaïs Schaus as Tess
- Anna Chancellor as Mrs Bellamy
Historical background 
Manual genital massage of women had been a medical remedy since antiquity, and hysteria was a recognized malady until the American Psychiatric Association discontinued this term in 1952. Joseph Mortimer Granville filed the first patent for an electromechanical vibrator termed Granville's Hammer in about 1883. Granville, however, did not apply his invention in the treatment of hysteria; rather, he used it to treat muscular disorders. Other physicians started to apply the vibrator for the treatment of hysteria.
The film received mixed reviews, garnering a score of 53 out of 100 (based on 33 reviews) at Metacritic. Rotten Tomatoes reported a score of 57% based on 117 reviews and a consensus of "Hysteria has an amusing subject but its winking, vaguely sarcastic tone doesn't do the movie any favors."
- "Hysteria". Box Office Mojo. Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 2 October 2012.
- Rachel P. Maines. "The Technology of Orgasm. The Job Nobody Wanted.". The Johns Hopkins University Press. ISBN 0-8018-5941-7.
- NNBD. "Joseph Mortimer Granville".
- "Hysteria Reviews". Metacritic. Retrieved January 14, 2013.
- "Hysteria". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved January 14, 2013.