On the Treatment of Hysteria

Who doesn’t love movies about sex? America has to be one of the most uptight about this subject so we always feel like we’re getting away with something when we go watch a movie about it. This feeling is carried throughout the great movie, Hysteria.

The audience is in-the-know from the beginning, seeing 19th century housewives visit a doctor to have that big O, knowing that there is no such thing as hysteria. It allows the entire plot to not take itself too seriously and so you’re able to have fun watching the movie.

The acting was competent all around, with the always-good Maggie Gyllenhaal playing true as the firebrand of the family. Meanwhile, Hugh Dancy had just the right mix of naiveté and spine to make his character likeable and believable.

Cute and funny moments abounded as we watched young Doctor Mortimer (Dancy) get kicked out of yet another hospital for spreading his progressive theories. After consulting his electric-obsessed benefactor (Rupert Everett) he’s off to find a new position, landing upon Dr. Dalrymple’s doorstep. Dr. Dalrymple treats women’s ailments, mostly hysteria, which is described as just about any emotion a woman might have.  The treatment was… to put it bluntly… masturbation. It was all couched in very appropriate 19th century terms of course but there you have it. We proceed to watch Mortimer win over the ladies of London all while courting Dr. Dalrymple’s utterly suitable daughter, avoiding the unsuitable one (you know they end up together in the end) and working his poor hand into a brace. The unsuitable daughter, Charlotte (Maggie Gyllenhaal) had an appropriately progressive cause… blah blah. The characters come together, they’re pulled apart. In short young Mortimer ends up rich (from selling his new vibrator) and with the right girl (Gyllenhaal). Everyone is happy at the end.

While we learn nothing, perhaps other than a loose interpretation of the invention of the vibrator, I can’t say that I wanted anything more from this movie. They slid by the potentially depressing fact that most women with severe “hysteria” were mutilated, locked up as if they were crazy, or became so by virtue of the fact they were locked in an asylum, or were labeled with the term as a convenient way to get rid of them. This is all much too heavy for a movie like this, though they did touch on it. Over all it was a great date movie. Hysteria was pitch perfect, the acting was great and I went home feeling good about being a woman.

8 hysterical women out of 10

Hysteria movie


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