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Hugh Dancy and Maggie Gylenhaal want to teach you all about vibrators - in high-def...!
Sony / 99 Minutes / 2012 / Rated R / Street Date: September 18, 2012
Orgasms abound in director Tanya Wexler's Hysteria, though for the most part, they're achieved because of doctor's orders. See, Dr. Robert Dalrymple (Jonathan Pryce) runs a very successful practice of treating women by bringing them to climax, but as his young apprentice Mortimer Granville (Hugh Dancy) knows, it's not all wine and roses - after literally working his hands to the bone one day (insert pun [here]), Dalrymple lets him go.
But Mortimer legitimately finds a passion in this field, and he keeps his mind on the ladyparts of his community (makes sense to me). And one day, he notices that his housemate Edmund (Rupert Everett) has fashioned an odd cleaning device that Mortimer quickly envisions as the tool that will save his career and allow women's toes to curl. And once he meets the lovely Charlotte (Maggie Gyllenhaal), a leading figure of the blossoming women's rights movement in town, the sphere of his new invention becomes wider and more influential than he ever imagined.
Hysteria pretty much came and went last year, and it can't be denied that its subject matter is not for the squeamish. As we all know, American audiences are perfectly happy watching Jason Biggs shove his junk behind a glass saucepan lid in American Wedding, but when it comes to women finding deep pleasure (and, ahem, finding it by themselves), things get a little uncomfortable. But while there are definitely moments in Hysteria designed to make audiences blush, there's a nice balance to the movie that attempts to take the sting out of any potential viewer disquiet.
That being said, the movie isn't nearly as good as it could be. Part of the frustration that comes with films like Hysteria is that when it falls short of its lofty narrative goals, one feels a particular pang of 'It could have been so good...' that sours the overall experience of the thing a bit. This is not to say there aren't alluring and insightful elements of Wexler's end result (her commentary on this Blu-ray Disc is one of the best I've heard this season), but Hysteria ends up being good where it should be great.