Sunday, 3 August 2014
I had such high hopes for this, so it's really sad that Hysteria is just a disappointing lacklustre period romcom with only a sprinkling of filth and mischievous sparkle.
Based on the true and fascinating story of Victorian medic Joseph Mortimer Granville and his treatment for the female malady of 'hysteria', which led to the patented invention of the electromechanical vibrator, Hysteria is little more than a 'Carry On Fapping' albeit one that never seems too sure how far it should push the sauciness or the actual facts the story stems from. Ultimately it pushes neither far enough and what we're left with is a harmless, twee bit of fluff.
Maggie Gyllenhaal, using the film as a dry run for the impeccably clear cut English accent she's currently using in the excellent BBC2 series The Honourable Woman, delivers the goods despite being stuck with the more po faced and romantic aspects of the film, along with a script that pushes her suffragette and strong wills a little too forcibly, making it feel crowbarred like a box ticking exercise. Meanwhile Hugh Dancy offers little more than a vague approximation of the kind of thing Hugh Grant did back in the 90s, only in a much more plodding manner.
There's a host of other familiar faces in the cast, but they're largely wasted. These include Jonathan Pryce, a waxy looking Rupert Everett, Felicity Jones and Ashley Jensen, who is perhaps the worst example of the wasted talent in what is an underpowered and jarring subplot that sees her beaten, bruised and playing ugly in a manner which reminds you of the tragedies placed upon her downtrodden character Maggie in Extras. The only real star in the supporting cast is Sheridan Smith, who instinctively knows how to play the cheeky, saucy stuff for laughs, yet her appearances are sadly all too brief.
The production and costume design is impressive, certainly for a run of the mill comedy, but it's not enough to lift the production from the tedium. Let's face it, when a film opens with a man stepping in horseshit and expects a laugh, you kind of know you're in for as unsatisfying a time as women of the pre-vibrator era perhaps had. Ironically it's just too hard for Hysteria to let go and play as wild and carefree as it should be. It really needed to embrace its inner Carry On or Ripping Yarns to truly entertain an audience.