“Hysteria” brings good vibes to the big screen

Be honest — were you disappointed when you learned what O magazine was actually about? If so, the film Hysteria was made for your viewing pleasure.

Hysteria is a stimulating truth-based film set in Victorian London about young Dr. Mortimer Granville (Hugh Dancy) who builds a practice in a specialized area of women’s medicine: the treatment of “hysteria.” The then-common diagnosis encompassed various physical and psychological complaints relieved by “digital pelvic massage” to the point of “hysterical paroxysm.”

Yes, women got over hysteria by getting off.

Unsurprisingly, so many women seek the hands-on treatment that doctors can’t satisfy the demand. Physicians suffer stiff wrists and numb fingers until Dr. Granville, with the help of a scientist (Rupert Everett) discovers the solution in the form of a steam-powered feather duster. He calls it a “manipulator”; we call it a vibrator. Here’s the trailer:

Hysteria is wonderfully droll in its approach: Patients and physicians alike believe that the therapy is medical, not sexual, making the very enthusiastic response to successful treatment that much more, well, hysterical. And where else will you see a film in which the climax is exactly that?

The one person who seems to acknowledge the true nature of hysteria is the character played by Maggie Gyllenhaal, the daughter of one of Dr. Granville’s colleagues (Jonathan Pryce) who falls for the young doctor. She likely has learned to self medicate and avoid hysteria, but views the device as jolly good fun. She also understands that the invention is revolutionary in terms giving women control of their sexual needs.

Hysteria, which will doubtlessly create quite a buzz when it premieres at the Toronto Film Festival in September, is directed by Tanya Wexler, I expect the film to benefit from a female touch. I can’t wait for the wide release.

What’s your position on Hysteria?

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