Hysteria (Sony Pictures Classics) | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
Monday, June 17th, 2024  


Studio: Sony Pictures Classics

May 19, 2012 Issue #41 - Yeasayer
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Tanya Wexler’s Hysteria, a period piece set in late 19th century London, is nothing if not luscious eye candy. The cinematography is vivid, with the contrast of the muted grays of the dilapidated slums and the garish, rococo flourishes of the opulent bourgeoisie neighborhoods mirroring the struggle at the crux of the film.

Maggie Gyllenhaal astounds as Charlotte Dalrymple, giving a white-hot performance simmering with umbrage at socioeconomic disparity, and a self-effacing sense of humor at the sheer absurdity of the situation she finds herself in. Charlotte is effectively wedged between the elite class embraced by her father, Dr. Robert Dalrymple (Jonathan Pryce), and the plight of the downtrodden, for whom she fervently advocates at a shelter she runs.

Hugh Dancy superbly exercises restraint as Dr. Mortimer Granville, his cognitive dissonance between staying true to his virtues versus selling out to the wealthy establishment simmering closer and closer to the surface as the film approaches a queasy yet satisfying resolution.

The lascivious use of vibrators and references to doctor-sanctioned sexual gratification of women as a cure for “hysteria” is adroitly utilized as a plot device in the film. It serves essentially as an allegory for the double standard attached to male and female ambitions, and Charlotte’s indefatigable iconoclasm embodies the anti-status quo attitude so prevalent in the broad 20th century renaissance for women’s rights. But this film is also instructional as an illustration that these seemingly archaic issues are still ubiquitous, despite the undeniable progress that’s been made. Hysteria ultimately both inspires and galvanizes, and reminds that the fight necessary for equity to the disenfranchised never ends.


Author rating: 7/10

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