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Loosely based on the life of Joseph Mortimer Granville, the man who invented a somewhat unusual device for treating female hysteria. The film is set at the end of the 19th century, when an official medical technique for the treatment of female hysteria included 'massage of the pelvic area'. Dr Robert Dalrymple has set up a surprisingly successful practice specialising in the treatment. Dashing young doctor Mortimer Granville joins the firm and proves particularly popular with the women who go there to have their hysteria alleviated. Mortimer also proves popular with Dalrymple's two daughters, Charlotte and Emily, who compete for his affection. Which one of the girls will he choose? And what is the device he has in mind for revolutionising the treatment of female hysteria?
For more about Hysteria and the Hysteria Blu-ray release, see Hysteria Blu-ray Review published by Martin Liebman on September 24, 2012 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Starring: Maggie Gyllenhaal, Hugh Dancy, Jonathan Pryce, Felicity Jones, Rupert Everett, Ashley Jensen
Director: Tanya Wexler
» See full cast & crew
Hysteria Blu-ray Review
Feels so good.
Reviewed by Martin Liebman, September 24, 2012
I have never shirked from hard work in the pursuit of helping the most needy among us.
What happens when the medical profession heals ailments through bodily pleasure? One modern-day equivalent might be the use of (and controversy surrounding) medicinal marijuana, but back in the day it was genital stimulus that some saw as a cure-all for that which ailed the mind and soul and in particular assuaged the female problem of "Hysteria." The film Hysteria tells the tale of one such medical practice that pleasured England's finest ladies, turning the doctor's office into a weird sort of brothel in which men (trained professionals with degrees to back them up) performed the task of massaging a lady's most intimate parts until the point of climax ("paroxysmal convulsions", actually), all in the name of medical science and treatment, of course. Director Tanya Wexler's (Finding North) Hysteria takes a rather taboo subject and morphs it into a humorous little picture about technological progress at the end of the medicinal dark ages. Man always finds a simpler way to do things, does he not? And the best way to relieve the hand cramps after working over several ladies? Invent a device to do all the hard work. Fortune be it that "the vibrator," cold and impersonal though it may be, revolutionized female pleasure in the shadow of awkward medicine, to say the least.
In the old days when medical bleeding, leeches, and a resistance to new sciences did more medical harm than good came the invention of...the vibrator. Mortimer Granville (Hugh Dancy, King Arthur) is a physician who's up-to-date on the latest in medical advancements, such as the harm of microscopic germs and the negative effects of leaving a wound bandaged with filthy wrappings. His dedication to new medical science leaves him without a job and makes him an outcast in the medical community. He's finally hired on by Dr. Robert Dalrymple (Jonathan Pryce, Tomorrow Never Dies), a doctor who treats women by manually inducing orgasms. It sounds like quite the racket, but it's a thriving practice that makes for very tired hands. He hires on Mortimer as an apprentice and comes to grow fond of the young lad, so much so that he's keen on the idea of handing over the entire operation to him one day and seeing his daughter Emily (Felicity Jones, Like Crazy) take his hand in marriage. But when Mortimer can't quite satisfy one of the patients thanks to a sore hand, he's dismissed from the position. Fortunately, his roommate Edmund (Rupert Everett, My Best Friend's Wedding) has invented an automatic duster which Mortimer instead envisions as the future of female treatment. Meanwhile, he develops a relationship with the other Dalrymple girl, a feisty women's rights advocate named Charlotte (Maggie Gyllenhaal, Donnie Darko).
Hysteria manages a terribly delicate balance with grace, tackling a taboo subject of sorts with an underlying humor and seriousness both that allow audiences to fall into the story and accept its sensibilities without feeling offended or uneasy with the subject matter. That's not to say that the most delicate and traditional of audiences won't want to stay away, and it's probably not a good idea to show this movie to younger children, but most adults with an even head on their shoulders -- no matter their view on the sexual themes present -- should find Hysteria at least amusing, though perhaps not hilarious or hysterical. The movie displays all of its "naughty" scenes tastefully. The women are covered and everything is merely suggested and never seen in any sort of sordid detail. The picture finds humor by casting women capable of displaying over-the-top facial responses to the nether region stimulus. Oohs and aahs and facial contortions and big grins and even bursts into song define the "pleasuring" segments. Rest assured Hysteria is presented in good taste; it's just up to each viewer to decide if a movie about female stimulation as medical science and the resultant invention of the vibrator is the sort of movie one wishes to watch.
Hysteria makes for a gentle and relaxing, dare say satisfying, little watch. It's charming and quite funny in a very simple sort of way. The story is terribly linear and, with the basic plot in mind, it's always easy to see what's around the next reel. But all is not lost. Hysteria weaves together tales of progress -- in sexual satisfaction, women's rights, and cutting-edge medicine -- into a world on the brink of ditching a whole lot of old ways for an entire new world of discovery and approaches to science and medicine. Tanya Wexler finds an irresistible balance between the sly humor, the romance, and the period film elements, weaving together several styles into one rollicking good time of a movie that never goes too far towards the taboo and plays things safely but effectively and very humorously. The movie's rhythm is evident early on, and it moves quickly through its 99 minute runtime, using every second to the benefit of character development, plot advancement, and laughs. The cast does remarkably well in shaping the characters, managing to take the movie seriously even through its bouts of silliness and moments that might in lesser hands become uneasy and awkward but that are here charming at worst and downright hilarious at best. Few movies tackle a subject like this with the grace and efficiency of Hysteria. It's a quality picture from the ground up, encompassing costume and style to enhance the period and support the wonderful cast, easy direction, expert editing, and surprisingly effective and funny story.
Hysteria Blu-ray, Video Quality
Hysteria arrives on Blu-ray with a top-notch 1080p transfer that comes up just short of perfection. The image dazzles, generally, with exquisite details. In true Sony Blu-ray fashion, the image is home to a striking, film-like presentation that offers superb clarity and tremendous details under a fine layer of film grain. Whether complex clothing and facial lines, rough stone surfaces, or warm wooden textures, Sony's transfer delivers nearly every object with the sort of perfection and attention to detail typical of the studio's releases. Colors are equally terrific. The film offers quite a few shades of gray but the intermixing palette is robust and bright, pure and bold and true to the original source. On the downside, blacks can be a little too bright and very noisy in some shots, perhaps most evident in the scene featuring Mortimer's "eureka!" vibrator moment. Additionally, skin tones sometimes veer towards an unwanted orange shading. Otherwise, this transfer is a stunner. It's purely filmic and features no wear and tear or added compression related issues. This is a top-flight transfer all the way.
Hysteria Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Hysteria features a very good but sonically reserved DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 lossless soundtrack. Generally, the track enjoys simple but effective spacing, nicely recreating the light sounds of the old city, including passing horse and carriage on stone streets. Very light general ambience, such as a ticking clock, light clanking silverware, or coughing and shifting from the gallery in the end courtroom scene easily and gently immerse the listening audience in the various environments and situations with the help of very light but effective side and surround channel activity. There's great clarity in a burst of high-pitched orgasmic song in one scene and equally fine clarity and spacing to be heard and enjoyed accompanying orchestral score. Dialogue is even and true, balanced up the middle and effortlessly reverberating about the stage when necessary. Hysteria's soundtrack isn't designed to offer a sonic assault; listeners who appreciate a refined and reserved sort of track should enjoy this presentation.
Hysteria Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Hysteria contains a commentary track, a couple of featurettes, deleted scenes, and more.
Hysteria Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Hysteria certainly isn't a movie for everybody, but it's an approachable movie about a taboo subject that's clean and tasteful. The movie is very well assembled, from the costuming and period sets to the direction and editing. The cast is wonderful, too; Hugh Dancy, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Felicity Jones, and Jonathan Pryce deliver standout performances and give the movie an honest grounding even considering the film's potentially divisive plot. It's all in good fun; Hysteria isn't groundbreaking cinema, but audiences should feel very good going in and fully satisfied coming out. Sony's Blu-ray release of Hysteria features tip-top video, strong lossless audio, and a nice array of extra content. Recommended.
Hysteria Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Hysteria Blu-ray - August 6, 2012
In September, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment will bring Hysteria to Blu-ray. This fact-based romantic comedy follows the exploits of Mortimer Granville (Hugh Dancy, The Jane Austen Book Club), a young doctor whose research in the field of female hysteria leads ...
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