I know, I know. How often have we all thought, “Gee, when are they going to finally make a film about the invention of the vibrator?” Well, those, um, prayers have been, well, answered. Set in Victorian England, Hysteria offers a fictionalized historical context about how Dr. Mortimer Granville (portrayed by Hugh Dancy) develops the electric device while attending to women suffering from hysteria, a largely catch-all term applied to the lesser sex.
After losing his job for his new-fangled ideas like germ theory, Dr. Granville finds himself landing a new position in an upper class women’s clinic healing — read: pleasuring — women with hysteria. With the addition of the handsome, young doctor, the clinic quickly becomes overbooked and Dr. Granville finds himself suffering from hand cramps. Enter his wealthy friend, Lord Edmund St. John-Smythe (played by Rupert Everett), who likes experimenting with the latest technology. The two unintentionally combine to create a new medical device.
Meanwhile, Granville finds himself becoming deeply involved with the family of his boss, specifically the senior doctor’s daughters, Emily (Felicity Jones) and Charlotte (Maggie Gyllenhaal). As he romances Emily, with the prospect of becoming a partner in the practice and eventually taking over the clinic, Charlotte causes trouble for the family, much to her father’s disappointment, with her loud, outspoken feminism and dedicated service to London’s poor.
Hysteria isn’t a serious film. They take everything in stride and intentionally make the jokes that you’re expecting with the obviously silly subject. Sometimes they hit the nail on the head and sometimes it just becomes a bit too silly, a bit too easy. But it’s an entertaining film with decent acting that keeps it from being too camp.