Hysteria (2011, Tanya Wexler)

Happily, we went to watch the vibrator movie at the Tara. But unhappily, it’s not a vibrator movie at all. The invention of the vibrator surely figures into the plot, but it’s mainly about a medically progressive but socially uptight early-1900’s doctor (Hugh Dancy, the sister’s husband in Marcy May) who learns to loosen up and fall in love with the free-spirited sister (Maggie Gyllenhaal) of his boring betrothed (Felicity Jones of Taymor’s Tempest). The movie could’ve learned its own lesson and had more fun with its premise, though I did appreciate the addition of duck sex.

There’s some fun in the supporting cast – Jonathan Pryce is Hugh’s boss, who cures “hysteria” in his female patients by masturbating them, and Rupert Everett is Hugh’s idle-rich inventor friend. It’s based somewhat on a true story, and maybe the whole heavy-handed plot (have I mentioned that Gyllenhaal runs a sanctuary for poor people, and that it ends with her on trial for hysteria?) actually happened in such an obvious way and this is a perfectly faithful retelling and I should learn to be nicer.

Pryce:

Wexler is the niece of oscar-winning cinematographer Haskell Wexler – funny since I kept noticing shots that were out-of-focus. Also funny that the D.P. of this film was Sean Bobbitt, who shot the undeniably great-looking Hunger. So why the camera trouble?

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