Hysteria

It’s hard to begrudge this innocuous film, except maybe for its innocuousness. So unchallenging that it becomes a challenge, director Tanya Wexler’s cutesy and inauthentic tale of female sexual liberation, written by Stephen Dyer, Jonah Lisa Dyer, and Howard Gensler, posits the invention of the vibrator as a bland comedy of Victorian manners. Hugh Dancy plays the exceedingly genteel inventor, with Maggie Gyllenhaal as a forward-thinking hothead suffragette who must teach him a thing or two. Also there are insubstantial parts for Jonathan Pryce, Rupert Everett, and Felicity Jones. Dotingly costumed and lit, narratively treacly and trumped-up, restlessly edited, and complacently condescending to its characters and to its audience, the movie doesn’t offer much of real interest beyond a montage of evolving vibrator technology played out over its closing credits. And quite unlike, say, an orgasm brought on by the Hitachi Magic Wand, it just takes way too long to get where you know it’s going.