Friday, June 8, 2012

Hysteria: Movie Review


"Hysteria" is not historical but it is hysterical.

There are a number of genres that are hard to write well: the horror-comedy; the tragedy-comedy; and the historical comedy. It’s not a coincidence that comedy is featured in all of them. “Hysteria” belongs to the historical comedy category. The part it does well is the comedy — it is pretty damn funny even when I wasn’t expecting it to be. Historical, though, it is not.

Directed by: Tanya Wexler

Screenplay by: Stephen Dyer and Jonah Lisa Dyer

Starring: Hugh Dancy, Maggie Gyllenhaal

It appears as though Hugh Dancy plays the only real character, Dr. Mortimer Granville, famous for inventing the vibrator. While his mentor (Jonathan Pryce), his love interest (Felicity Jones) and soul mate (Maggie Gyllenhaal) are all fictional characters. This is unfortunate as it made some of their decisions seem rather forced and very unoriginal.

That being said the characters were pretty good. Dancy is the straight man showing us the ridiculousness of the state of medical science in the Victorian era where his forward-thinking ways continually get him fired. His rich friend, Edmund St. John-Smythe (Rupert Everett), just wants to invent things, and his new boss, Dr. Robert Dalrymple, is busy using his fingers to cure women of hysteria. A disease that half of the women in London suffered from. That part is factual.

“Hysteria” is also listed as a romantic comedy. That part is also accurate, and although it accounts for the unoriginality that frustrated me, it does work well for the character of Mortimer. He believes in science, has advanced education for the time, but he’s proper and believes in rigid decorum. Dr. Dalrymple’s daughter, Emily (Jones) is the appropriate choice for a wife. But Charlotte (Gyllenhaal), the other daughter, is a fiery activist and is the obvious inappropriate choice but her passion can not be denied.

How much of “Hysteria” is actually true is very debatable, but it is very likable. Dancy and Gyllenhaal were both funny, great characters and very entertaining. The humour is basically the “I’ll have what she’s having” scene from “When Harry Met Sally” spread throughout the entire movie but it’s still funny. Immature? Yes, but if you can get past that you should genuinely enjoy yourself.


Salmon Fishing in the Yemen (2011) - Brings humour and faith to science, politics and romantic comedies.

Dear Lemon Lima (2009) - A smart, boy-obsessed girl creating a unique, quirky indie.