"Your typical, undemanding and quintessentially British rom-com, of the Richard Curtis ilk..."
We've had a film about the invention of cornflakes, a film about the creation of social networking, and we've even had one about the invention of lying, so seeing as we appear to be covering all bases, Tanya Wexler's romantic comedy Hysteria focuses on a different sort of conception - as we delve into the invention of the world's first ever vibrator.
Set in Victorian London, we follow the pursuit of hapless doctor Mortimer Granville (Hugh Dancy) in becoming one of the capital's most innovative and successful physicians. After his forward thinking pushes him out of yet another job, he finds solace at the surgery of Dr. Dalrymple (Jonathan Pryce) who provides a service solely for women who are deemed to be suffering from hysteria - a symptom that covers a variety of grounds - from sleep deprivation to depression to mild delirium, and the experienced Dr. Dalrymple only has one treatment for such a diagnosis - to intimately pleasure his patients to point of climax.
Given his new employer Granville's good looks, there is suddenly an increase in cases of hysteria across London, however the young doctor has his heart set on his bosses daughter Emily (Felicity Jones), despite the unlikely temptation posed by her elder, feminist sister Charlotte (Maggie Gyllenhaal) who is against Granville's line of work. Meanwhile the strain put upon the physician's hands becomes too much, yet alongside his close friend Edmund (Rupert Everett) he soon discovers he is able to continue his work with the use of machinery, causing somewhat of a phenomenon...
Despite the relatively unique narrative, Hysteria simply feels like your typical, undemanding and quintessentially British rom-com, of the Richard Curtis ilk. It's charming in parts and provokes the occasional laugh out loud moment, with a series of cheap gags and innuendo's based around the rather provocative story line. This is where the British feel comes in - as despite the fact Hysteria is directed by an American, it's a film centred around sexual desire yet doesn't really speak of it in a direct manner, prudishly skirting around the issue somewhat. No Sex Please, We're British, etc.
To epitomise everything that is British about this film, look no further than Dancy, taking on a role that wouldn't be surprising had it been offered to Hugh Grant first. However, Dancy fails to encapsulate the bumbling, self-deprecating role as well, lacking in that inept charm that Grant masters in. Everett steals the show however, certainly the fortunate recipient of the majority of the feature's more endearing and amusing one-liners. Meanwhile Gyllenhaal also impresses, with a considerably remarkable British accent, which may even be better than my very own.
However her performance is undermined by the hypocritical, misunderstood role as the supposedly strong-willed and intelligent suffragette, a part lacking in conviction, shamelessly surrendering her principles as she appears to be falling for Granville. There is something terribly ironic about suffragette movies taking far too much of a mirthful tone, often tucked away within the rom-com genre. When was the last dramatic and sincere portrayal of such themes? The majority seem to tackle feminism with an gratuitous degree of joviality. There are political undertones to Hysteria, yet they're simply devalued by the comedic approach taken, not fully addressing the matter at hand.
Never the less, Hysteria is a harmless and unexacting film, which, in fairness, does seem fitting in some aspects, taking the heat of what is a rather controversial subject matter for such an accessible film, therefore justifying the light-hearted approach somewhat. However despite that, this still isn't a film you'd want to take your mother to.