San Francisco International Film Fest 2012 review: Hysteria

I’ve been busy covering the 2012 San Francisco International Film Fest over the past week and a half, and it’s been a *great* year for the fest. It’s coming to a close tonight: as of today I’m all done reviewing films and attending stuff.

My favorite films were Headhunters (Jo Nesbo, with Jamie Lannister) and Tokyo Waka (documentary about Tokyo’s clever crows). I said biting things about Francis Ford Coppola’s new vampire film Twixt. Sexwise, Stephen Elliott’s Cherry was a peach. My last film was the Sony Classics release Hysteria – which you may recognize from previous posts here in which I chirped with excitement about this Victorian-era tale about the first vibrators, starring Maggie Gylenhaal.

My review for Hysteria just went live on SF Appeal. I enjoyed the chance to professionally comment on a mainstream feature film where I could also apply my expertise on sexual technology, among other things. Sadly, I think you’ll find my review more entertaining than the film itself.

(…) Set in Victorian London, out of work doctor Mortimer Granville (Hugh Dancy) finds a job in a private practice under the tutelage of older doc Dr. Dalrymple (Jonathan Pryce). Granville soon finds that he’s required to administer Dr. Dalrymple’s unorthodox treatments to lessen the symptoms of hysteria among his numerous female patients – a labor-intensive patient-by-patient manual labor job.

Now, of course the in-joke is that hysteria was the medical diagnosis for a variety of symptoms as applied to women for, well, basically being women. Medical science of the time did not consider female genitalia capable of experiencing pleasure, and so when proper married women would act strange or exhibit various ills, they could be diagnosed with hysteria and locked up, given hysterectomies, or treated by massage to “hysterical paroxysm.”

I’m guessing that too many women had this “problem” stemming from their nethers to all be locked up or butchered. At any rate, some docs would give weekly treatments to ladies; they would jack the women off. The brilliant thing about this from a business perspective is that the patients would both never get truly sick, nor would they ever get “better.” And so a cottage industry was born.

Unfortunately, an in-joke isn’t enough to sustain a feature film, but that’s exactly what happens here. (…read more,

Share This Post

  • Daniel

    Thanks for the candid review. Was looking forward to at least a few laughs with this one but glad to avoid. Yes…it seems that they never got past the “high concept” to find anything else. When do you become a content consultant in advance on this stuff? Seems there are more and more films reaching into your specialty but still not delivering. Glad you’re reviewing and maybe they’ll finally consult with you.