Hysteria (M)(95 min)
There is probably a very good film waiting to made about the invention of the vibrator. (Now there's a sentence you won't read every day.) But Hysteria is not that film.
In Victorian and Edwardian England, ''hysteria'' was a common diagnosis, handed out to women by male doctors for a range of conditions.
Society was rigidly proscriptive, and anxiety, depression, and sexual guilt and frustration, were endemic. One of the most common treatments prescribed - and there's no other way of saying this - was manual stimulation, administered by the doctor, to bring the patient to orgasm.
But it was an inefficient and tiring business. Step up the genuine historical figure of Dr Mortimer Granville, the inventor of ''Granville's Hammer''. (I'm not making this up.)
With that back story, Hysteria has no excuse to not be a terrifically funny and engrossing film, with plenty to say about society's views of women and sexuality, and of how we have - and haven't - changed. But Hysteria cops out.
The film shies away from its own story, and settles for the cheap laugh far too often. It's laugh out loud funny at times, and Maggie Gyllenhaal and Rupert Everett are endlessly watchable, but Hysteria left me feeling - err - unfulfilled.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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