Best Movies That You’ve Never Heard of: #Hysteria

Hysteria – Official Nerfed Llamas Review

Sometimes a movie comes out of nowhere and surprises you with its brilliance. It is rare, but it does happen. Hysteria is just such a film. Fun fact: I wasn’t even looking for a new movie to watch when I happened onto a trailer for a movie titled: Hysteria. I more or less was goofing off on YouTube and the trailer popped up as a recommendation based on my viewing history. Here is the trailer that I am referring to:

If you watched the trailer, then you probably understand why I felt compelled to track this movie down and give it a watch. If you did not watch the trailer, stop reading and start watching, it’s important. The 2011 film Hysteria is a social commentary period comedy, based on a true story of the doctor who invented the first official vibrator in the late 1880s. Yes, that vibrator, the one that men and women have been using for self and mutual sensual gratification for years. Now before you get worried that I am trying to get you to watch some late night soft core pornography, just hold your horses right there! This movie is nothing like that at all, in fact there are no naked bodies in this movie and hardly any coarse language of note. This flick could probably pass for PG-13 if it were not for the subject matter being sexual in nature. Hysteria is a wonderfully mad and comedic look at the science and medicine of the late 1800s and how it related the world view of women, their bodies and their rights at the time.

First and foremost, this movie is a laugh riot. Truly funny stuff here, deep gut laugh year in the eyes funny. From how contemporary doctors who do not believe that germs exist, to lengthy discussions of how women do not experience pleasure from sex at all unless a male member is inserted in their vagina, the dialogue is a bizarre snapshot of a time gone by. What’s interesting, is that there are so many things that we accept as common knowledge these days (example: washing hands to lessen the risk of passing diseases) that are discussed in the movie as emerging concepts, and it’s tremendous fun to watch how certain characters react to the very notion of these new ideas (hint: most of the characters don’t see the value of something as simple as washing one’s hands regularly).

Also of importance is the deft hand that directed the film, Tanya Wexler. Her leadership clearly gave the actors proper direction, as they each nailed their roles marvelously. More than that, each character plays a significant role in the overall story that unfolds. It is refreshing to watch a film where nobody gets relegated to being one note or a simple placeholder that spews dialogue. A lot of care was put into the production design, which allows everything to look and feel period authentic. Also of chief importance is the pacing of the movie, which is brisk yet never rushed. A lot happens from the moment the reel starts spinning till the credits come to a close, and the movie doesn’t get stuck on any one idea for too long, yet never misses an opportunity to give special emphasis to the parts that matter most. It is a most delicate balance, and a credit to the filmmaker that directed the flick.

Finally, the ensemble cast that was assembled for this film is essentially a dream team. Hugh Dancy, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Rupert Everett, Felicity Jones and Jonathan Pryce: all top tier actors performing at the top of their game in Hysteria. Hugh Dancy brings a plucky and enlightened fun to the main character, Dr. Mortimer Granville. Maggie Gyllenhaal plays Charlotte Dalrymple as the exuberant and vastly intelligent women that she very likely was. Charlotte is truthfully a revolutionary woman for her time, and Gyllenhaal gives a fearless performance to a character that is voicing the concerns of an entire gender. Rupert Everett’s portrayal of Granville’s friend Lord Edmund St John-Smythe – a technology and electricity enthusiast, is a joy to watch with his deviant smirks and dry wit. Felicity Jones’ turn as Emily Dalrymple (Charlotte’s sister) is magnificent, as she starts as a duty bound young lady, tied heavily to the whims of her father, yet starts her journey towards independence – and she nails it! And you couldn’t ask for a more accomplished actor to play the patriarch of the Dalrymple family than Jonathan Pryce, who is the very model of a proper English gentleman and doctor.

Ultimately, Hysteria is a two-fold tale of both scientific discovery and the importance of women being treated as equals. As such, the film succeeds in giving us a good understanding of how difficult it was (and some ways still is) for women to speak their mind, branch out on their own, and be the person they want to be. It also gives a solid foundation for just how much life was changing for the civilized people of the late 1800s. Electricity was starting to catch on, phones were being used by those who could afford the set up, and new inventions were being made all the time. Life as people knew it was changing, and as it has been for all who had come before and that were still to come, it was technological advancements married with a better understanding of world around us that lead the change.

So if you are looking for a great comedy film that tells a wild tale about the origin of the vibrator, look no further than Hysteria. It should be noted that Hysteria is much more than just a story about a pleasure device, it is a wonderful period piece that tells an important story about how far we have come in health, science and gender relations. Also, it is damned funny. It can be purchased on Blu Ray and DVD, and I highly recommend it.

For more information about the movie, check out the official site

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