WHO knew that the key to women’s liberation was an orgasm? Or, to be precise, many orgasms on a regular basis. Hysteria is a movie about the beginning of the western Women's Liberation movement disguised as a period film about the origins of the vibrator. British lad Doctor Mortimer Granville was the first person to patent the dildo back in 1880 and the film re-imagines the events that led him to that point. Shockingly it opens with a Slipknot score…uh, just kidding. It starts like any other period film : white, elegant, cursive credits over a black background while a dainty piano score accompanies. But Hysteria quickly develops into much more than your standard corset ripper.
Hugh Dancy plays the young Dr Granville and he does a good job of looking handsome and at the same time kafuddled and British.His forward thinking medical theories see him struggling to keep a job, that is, until he takes up a position at an exclusive private practice. The facility specialises in treating ‘hysteria’: the medical term used to describe horny women, before such a crude description was adequate. The cure for hysteria is, erm, a vulva massage administered by doctors such as the Granville. A woman’s G-spot is widely considered harder to find than Ibrahim Salih Mohammed Al-Yacoub, but after an overworked hand and an overflowing appointment book, Granville develops a device to do the hard work.
Look, Hysteria isn’t a game-changer. Its biggest downfall is the romantic comedy-esque plotting of the relationship between Granville and Maggie Gyllenhaal’s character Charlotte: an outspoken suffragist and charity worker. The poster already tells you they end together, so the cardboard conflict of ‘Oh, they’re such opposites! How will they ever end up together’ is unnecessary. The scene stealer is Rupert Everett as an amusing, wealthy playboy and Granville’s best friend and financial backer. He’s so delightful you wouldn’t mind having him over for a spot of tea followed by some philandering.
Although the film is centred on the female orgasm, you don’t see a vagina on screen *cue sigh of relief from the males*. There does need to be a warning for the more delicate viewers however, as you will see more women ‘completing’ in this than you will in a Magic Mike screening.
Hysteria is about accessing ones pleasure, whether that be rebelling against your father, speaking out against social injustice or, literally, accessing your own pleasure with a device that sounds like a swarm of angry bees on steroids. And for that, Hysteria is quite brilliant. For a story on the invention of the vibrator its enjoyment lasts with the viewer sufficiently longer than...well, you get the drift.
Maria-Lee Lewis - follow Maria on Twitter here: @moviemazz
Directed by: Tanya Wexler
Written by: Stephen Dyer, Jonah Lisa Dyer and Howard Gensler (original story).
Starring: Maggie Gyllenhaal, Hugh Dancy, Felicity Jones, Rupert Everett and Jonathan Pryce