My Old Addiction

Movie Reviews By Bil Antoniou

Hysteria (2011)


Bil’s rating (out of 5):  BB.5United Kingdom/France/Germany/Luxembourg, 2011.  , , , , , , Arte France Cinéma, , , , , , WDR / Arte, , CinéCinéma.  Story and Screenplay by , , from an original story by .  Cinematography by .  Produced by , , , .  Music by .  Production Design by .  Costume Design by .  Film Editing by .  Toronto International Film Festival 2011.  

Constantly frustrating his fellow medical practitioners with his radical ideas about germs and viruses, young idealistic doctor  finds himself without work on a frequent basis.  His wealthy patron () can do little for him, having exhausted all his options to get the man a posting, so Dancy is thrilled when he meets a physician specializing in women’s illnesses () who happily takes him on as assistant.  Pryce is breaking forth into the field of hysteria, the unhappy disturbance of feminine nerves that occurs due to a hyperactive uterus, and has an office teeming with ladies in need of his services on a regular basis.  The best treatment for this is release, the manual application of stimulation to an affected lady’s nether-regions, so Dancy immediately gets into the game with glove and lube, working women to a nerve-calming climax so many times a day that he eventually finds his hands reaching their breaking point.  At the same time, he is thoroughly enchanted by the head doctor’s fiery, opinionated daughter (Maggie Gyllenhaal) who speaks out against appalling conditions for the city’s working poor and advocates the political advancement of women in society; for her devotion to her cause she eventually finds herself in a court of law and in need of defense for supposed crimes.  This delightful tale longs to be a charming and insightful examination of what is essentially the origin story of the modern-day vibrator (Dancy’s character invented it to relieve himself of the physical strain on his wrists), happily enjoying the irony of one of life’s greatest assistants in pleasure having arisen from the depths of a woeful inequality of respect afforded to the sexes.  Director Tanya Wexler and writers Stephen and Jonah Lisa Dyer bite off more than they can chew, however, involving far too many story elements in one short piece and zipping through them with all the clumsiness of a filmmaking team who are at the mercy of sneak-preview comment cards.  There’s a sense that this was going to be a bigger movie and was pared down by outside interference, leaving for a lighthearted amusement that has no legs to stand on.

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