The diagnosis was Female Hysteria. Other countries said the malady existed, but most of the diagnoses were in Europe in the 19th Century. The victims were usually middle-aged to later in life women who had — among other symptoms — restlessness and nervousness.
Or they wanted more sex.
Doctors often treated Female Hysteria with genital massage. Some doctors made it their specialty and had special rooms with special chairs for their special service.
Hysteria is about two doctors. One is new to the practice of treating the malady, and the other — dare we say — is an old hand. The plot is rather complex. There is an odd love story and its usual conflicts. There are equally odd friendships. And the doctor’s practice comes into — um — play in places.
There is also a quick, interesting view of how medicine hit a defining point in the 19th Century.
Hugh Dancy is Dr. Mortimer Granville. He’s the new doctor. He and Maggie Gyllenhaal’s Charlotte Dalyrmple do the love story dance. She’s the old-hand doctor’s rebellious social worker daughter. Dancy fancies her stay at home sister but can’t help but admire Charlotte’s liberated ways.
It all works out at the clim — er — in the end.
The plot includes a not-seen-enough and incredibly talented Rupert Holmes playing an inventor and Mortimer’s best friend, and a droll, stuffy Jonathan Pryce does the older doctor.
Where the film really works is the few scenes with Dancy and Gyllenhaal and when Dancy and Everett are together. The chemistry and fun disappears when Pryce and Dancy do the hysteria treatments. That is — unfortunately — necessary because loosely wrapped into this “true” story is the invention of the first vibrator.
It’s connection to the plot is interesting and even generates a little bit of a buzz. And stay for the outtakes and the end of the film history lesson.
Mr. Movie rating: 3 stars
Director: Tanya Wexler
Writers: Stephen Dyer, Jonah Lisa Dyer
Stars: Hugh Dancy, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Rupert Everett, Jonathan Pryce
Rated R for mature themes, sex. It is playing at the Carmike 12.
5 stars to 4 1/2 stars: Must see on the big screen
4 stars to 3 1/2 stars: Good film, see it if it's your type of movie.
3 stars to 2 1/2 stars: Wait until it comes out on DVD.
2 stars to 1 star: Don't bother.
0 stars: Speaks for itself.