ChickFlicking – Hysteria Review (Nadia Sandhu)

Hysteria (2011)

Starring Maggie Gyllenhaal, Hugh Dancy and Jonathan Pryce

Directed by Tanya Wexler

Until the late nineteenth century hysteria was a medical catch-all for ailments particular to women and thought to be caused by disturbances of the uterus.

Indeed, hysteria is “a plague of our times”, insists Dr. Robert Dalrymple (Jonathan Pryce) upon learning that his new mentee, Dr. Mortimer Granville (Hugh Dancy) is not familiar with the ailment.  Apparently half the women in London are suffering from this mysterious disease as our story begins.

Director Tanya Wexler and screenwriters Stephen Dyer and Jonah Lisa Dyer deserve some real credit here.  They have woven together a light-hearted tale that manages to include love, social history, vibrators and women’s rights in this delightfully wicked Victorian sex comedy.

Yes, you read that right.  Imagine prim, proper Victorians and Jane Austen-esque dialogue as our good doctors administer the agreed upon treatment for hysteria- the “vulvular massage”,  intended to bring on an “hysterical paroxysm” and relieve the symptoms, returning the uterus to its proper place.

Dr. Granville becomes quiet adept at the procedure but he also comes down with a serious case of carpel tunnel as a result,  jeopardizing his career.  As the saying goes, necessity is the mother of invention and with a little help from his wealthy, technologically forward friend Edmund St. John-Smythe (Rupert Everett), the vibrator is born.

If that wasn’t all, set against this backdrop of what amounts to medical masturbation, is an honest to goodness blossoming romantic attraction between Dr. Granville and his mentor’s wayward rebel of a daughter, Ms. Charlotte Dalrymple (played Maggie Gyllenhaal with a posh Kate Middleton inspired accent).

While the film itself is, pardon the pun, hysterical, the medical diagnosis and consequences of the same were no laughing matter and the film deftly handles weighty issues of sexuality and gender equality in a forthright and remarkably non-preachy manner.

A great film to kick off the summer movie season with.

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ChickFlicking the Summer Away – Summer Movie Preview (Nadia Sandhu)

As I wade further into the world of ChickFlicking, it is becoming clear that “chick flick” is really a catchall term for several distinct but related genres. For the purposes of this preview a simple litmus test was employed – does the official synopsis mention a romantic relationship?  If the answer is yes, then that film is included here.

Ladies and Germs, these are the Chick Flicks of Summer 2012 (click links for trailers):

MAY 18





What to Expect When You’re Expecting (Alliance Films) – The Hangover with strollers and JLo?

MAY 25

Hysteria (Entertainment One) – This one’s all about the invention of the vibrator AND it’s a period piece.  I’m so there.

Jesus Henry Christ (Entertainment One) – A single mother, a sperm donor, a precocious 10-year-old boy and Toni Collette. Could this be another About a Boy?  Here’s hoping!


Moonrise Kingdom (Entertainment One) – Are Wes Anderson films really chick flicks at heart? Those are musings for another post, but this particular film involves young love, so it qualifies here.

Snow White and the Huntsman (Universal Pictures) – Snow White has resided under the “flicks for chicks” column since the time of Uncle Walt, and while this darker retelling turns our princess into a warrior, it also gives us Kirsten Stewart as Snow and Liam Hemsworth as the Huntsman.  Women are definitely still the key market for this tale.


Lola Versus (Fox Searchlight Pictures) – Mumblecore darling Greta Gerwig stars in this tale of a jilted bride who decides to take charge and reinvent her life on the verge of her thirtieth birthday. Classic chick flick material.

Bel Ami (Magnolia Pictures) – Robert Pattinson and an all-star cast of actresses lead by Uma Thurman make this period piece seem reminiscent of Dangerous Liaisons. Sign us up!


Rock of Ages (Warner Bros. Pictures) – It’s a musical that features 80’s hair metal.  Incidentally, ladies in the 80’s were known to adore a certain Tom Cruise, who appears buff and shirtless here, and as an aging Rock God no less.


Seeking a Friend for the End of the World (Entertainment One) – Steve Carrell and Kiera Knightley face the end of the world together.  Do romantic sparks fly as the end draws nigh?

Your Sister’s Sister (Mongrel Media) – Sisters Emily Blunt and Rosemarie DeWitt square off over the heart of a man who is trying to come to terms with the death of his brother. Sounds melodramatic but this one is labelled a comedy on


Magic Mike (Warner Bros. Pictures) – This one is hitting its quadrants, no doubt about that, but with the promise of shirtless eye candy like Channing Tatum, Matthew McConaughey, Alex Pettyfer, Matt Bomer, and Joe Manganiello, and romantic complications against the back drop of a male strip club, this one will get its Chickflicking due.

Take This Waltz (Mongrel Media) – A steamy Toronto summer provides the backdrop for a love triangle between Seth Rogen, Michelle Williams, and Luke Kirby.


To Rome with Love (Mongrel Media) – Woody Allen follows up Midnight in Paris with four intersecting stories set in Rome.


Trishna (Mongrel Media) – Tess of the d’Urbervilles gets an update and a change of location to modern-day India. Freida Pinto stars in this doomed romance.


Step Up Revolution (Entertainment One) – Professional dancers, flash mobs with a message, and young love.


Celeste and Jesse Forever (Mongrel Media) – Can a recently divorced couple remain friends while pursuing new relationships? Andy Samberg and Rashida Jones find out in this “anti-rom com”.


Hope Springs (Columbia Pictures) – Meryl Streep, the titular Hope, decides to shake things up in her 30 year marriage to Tommy Lee Jones with the help of a relationship guru played by Steve Carrell.


The Odd Life of Timothy Green (Walt Disney Pictures) – A happily married couple unexpectedly become parents when young Timothy shows up on their doorstep one night.  This one stars would be rom-com queen Jennifer Garner.


Sparkle (Columbia Pictures) – Jordin Sparks starts as a budding singer who must juggle romance, career and the disapproval of her mother in this coming of age story that also features Whitney Houston‘s last performance.

See you at the movies!

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