A pleasurable experience
Director: Tanya Wexler
( Relative Evil ) Stars: Maggie Gyllenhaal, Hugh Dancy, Jonathan Pryce, Felicity Jones, Rupert Everett A comical malady for the ladies
A ROMANTIC comedy about the invention of the vibrator. How does that work? As the satisfied ladies of Hysteria might tell you, very well indeed.
In 1880s London, leeches are the height of medical practice and, as one greying doctor gruffly tells the young, forwardthinking Dr Mortimer Granville ( Hugh Dancy), ‘‘ germ theory is poppycock!’’
On the out with the staid establishment, Dr Granville takes a job with Dr Dalrymple ( Jonathan Pryce), who specialises in the treatment of hysteria.
His method? Massaging his female clients until they find relief through ‘‘ paroxysms’’. You know what we’re saying, right?
‘‘ Half the women in London are affected,’’ Dr Dalrymple explains to his new assistant.
Modern minds will scoff ( the film does a good job of mining Victorian- era practices for humour) and are well represented on screen by Dr Dalrymple’s lively daughter Charlotte ( a beaming Maggie Gyllenhaal), who brings shame on her family by supporting prostitutes, poor children and the suffragette movement.
Charlotte knows most of her father’s patients aren’t ill – they’re just under- served by their useless husbands.
‘‘ Isn’t she a Chinese firecracker,’’ observes Granville’s best friend Edmund upon meeting the maiden.
A rich layabout who dabbles in modern technology, Edmund is one of the first in London to have a telephone.
In Rupert Everett’s capable hands, he’s also delightfully dry and delivers all the film’s best one- liners.
Oh, and Edmund is working on an electric feather duster, an invention which may just find another use. You can see where this is going, right?
Yet even as Hysteria lays its steps out before you, it loses none of its fun or spice.
Director Tanya Wexler has dubbed her work ‘‘ the vibrator movie you can take your mum to’’. Indeed, she works her way around the ‘‘ massaging’’ scenes with enough forthrightness and sensitivity that the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel crowd will neither be bored nor scared off. And the superb cast hit all the right beats to keep the tale moving.
A thoroughly pleasurable experience.
FUN AND SPICE: ( top) Maggie Gyllenhaal and Hugh Dancy, with ( above) Rupert Everett, who delivers all the best one- liners.