Liam Daniel
Lisa Schwarzbaum
May 16, 2012 AT 04:00 AM EDT

Hysteria

type
Movie
Current Status
In Season
runtime
95 minutes
Limited Release Date
05/18/12
performer
Hugh Dancy, Rupert Everett, Maggie Gyllenhaal
distributor
Sony Pictures Classics
genre
Comedy

We gave it an A-

Beneath the long skirts of the delightful — and informative — 19th-century costume romance Hysteria beat the 20th-century hearts of storytellers who have read the classic 1970s feminist health guide Our Bodies, Ourselves. Behold, with the most tasteful of explicit dramatization, the story of the invention of the electric vibrator! As this cheery, R-rated Masterpiece-style variation explains, the tool has not only brought pleasure to millions of women for over a century, but it also saved Victorian doctors from the miseries of carpal tunnel syndrome: Until then, these (sexually clueless) gentlemen manually stimulated their lady patients to orgasm — ”uterine paroxysm,” they called it — to relieve the symptoms of the female ”affliction” that they diagnosed as ”hysteria” and we now call ”horniness.”

Working with an enthusiastic cast including Hugh Dancy as the reality-based Dr. Mortimer Granville, Felicity Jones as the demure daughter of London’s leading doctor of lady maladies (Jonathan Pryce), and Maggie Gyllenhaal as her proto-liberated sister, director Tanya Wexler makes a happy, sexually robust history lesson. And whenever Rupert Everett appears as a rich fellow who distinctly does not fancy ladies, it’s a hysterical history lesson of the hilarious variety. A-

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