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-