Hysteria Movie Review

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Hugh Dancy and Maggie Gyllenhaal in 'Hysteria'

Hugh Dancy and Maggie Gyllenhaal in 'Hysteria' - Photo © 2012 - Sony Pictures Classics

Reviewed by Kevin Finnerty

“What do you know of Hysteria,” asks Dr. Dalrymple (Jonathan Pryce) to Mortimer Granville (Hugh Dancy), a young and eager doctor struggling to establish himself in Victorian London in the comedy film, Hysteria.

Needing another doctor on staff to assist in treating the overflow of women patients and their diagnosis of hysteria, Dr. Dalrymple hires Granville. It seems almost half of London’s extremely well off ladies are suffering from the condition which is best treated by ‘pelvic massage’. While working at Dalrymple’s practice, Granville meets and quickly falls hard for his youngest daughter, Emily (Felicity Jones). Meanwhile, Emily’s older sister, Charlotte (Maggie Gyllenhaal), is the black sheep of the family, always willing to speak and sometimes shout her mind on social and medical issues in a time when ladies just didn’t behave that way. Charlotte is always looking to her father for financial assistance to help with the shelter she run for the poor and mistreated London women and their children, a job which her father believes is beneath her and wants her to quit.

At first, Granville is a huge success with all of Dalrymple’s female patients and it looks as if he has found his true calling as a doctor. But when he begins to suffer severe debilitating hand cramps from relieving some patients of their ‘condition’ and cause some to complain about his failure to satisfy their urges, he finds himself sacked.

Fortunately, being fired leads to a stunning discovery. While staying with his best friend, Edmund St. John-Smythe (Rupert Everett), the two men stumble into the creation of an invention which will forever revolutionize pleasuring women and cure them of suffering from hysteria.


Tacky and uninteresting, Hysteria is a uneven, bawdy British comedy that has zero laughs. One of the biggest problems with the film, other than the uninspired and unfunny script, is with the horrible miscasting of Maggie Gyllenhaal as Charlotte – the outspoken, brash and at times downright annoying women’s libber before her time. Gyllenhaal has no chemistry whatsoever with Dancy’s Granville, and her English accent seems to come and go depending on how loud she is shouting her lines. There are so many scenes where it’s obvious that she’s acting that it’s just not possible to believe her in this role.

Hugh Dancy is also weak as the well-meaning young Granville who cons himself into believing he’s truly helping the women of London so he can one day hopefully take over the practice and live a very comfortable life. He doesn’t have the charisma and charm to carry this film. Rupert Everett is the only highlight in the film as the eccentric well-to-do best friend, John-Smythe. The scenes with him testing the latest new device called the telephone are perhaps the only laughs in the movie.

Boring, unoriginal and tedious, Hysteria is one of the worst comedies to come along in years and should be forgotten before it is ever seen.

GRADE: D

Hysteria hits theaters on May 25, 2012 and is rated R for sexual content.

Kevin Finnerty

Professional film critic since 2003 and a member of the San Diego Film Critics Society. Host of “The Movie Guys” radio film review show from 2007 through 2013. Film and television critic for Showbizjunkies.com and a movie buff since 1973.
Kevin Finnerty
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