FILM: Hysteria starring Maggie Gyllenhaal and Hugh Dancy

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Merging a classic tale of romance around the true history of the invention of the first vibrator might seem like a difficult combination to pull off but director Tanya Wexler manages to do it with success in the new film Hysteria starring Hugh Dancy and Maggie Gyllenhaal.  The film tells the story of Mortimer Granville (Dancy), a young doctor who is brought into a practice of Dr. Robert Dalrymple played by Jonathan Pryce and finds himself torn between his two daughters, the proper Emily played by Felicity Jones and the wild suffragette Charlotte played by (Gyllenhaal).

Hysteria’s real strength is in it’s comic moments juxtaposing the uptight Victorian sensibilities with the overt sexuality in the treatment for Hysteria, which at the time was considered a serious disease affecting women with symptoms ranging from weeping to anxiety to nymphomania.  It manages to balance the line between comedy, romance, and history well, making for a film which appeals to men and women alike and even with the specifically sexual subject matter it never seems lewd or even shows much skin.

There are few surprises when it comes to the love story, but the context is king in this film as the ridiculous ideals of science at the time and the prudish attitudes of the day bring new life to an old tale infusing it with genuinely humorous moments.  It’s a bit like “Age of Innocence” with vibrators and plenty of clitoral stimulation which might make it the perfect date movie for the open-minded.

Hysteria starring Maggie Gyllenhaal and Hugh Dancy and directed by Tanya Wexler is in theaters May 18.

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