Monday, May 28, 2012


What better way to honor the memory of America’s war dead than with a lighthearted romp about the invention of a certain electrical self-stimulation device? Here to fill the bill is “Hysteria,” a costume comedy set in 1880’s England, starring the always appealing Hugh Dancy, with Jonathan Pryce and a proto-feminist Maggie Gyllenhaal, who doesn’t seem to realize the flick isn’t awards bait and almost manages to ruin it. (Tone it down, sweetcakes, you want to tell her; they ain’t giving no Oscar to a vibrator movie.)

“Hysteria” is a perfectly passable way to kill an hour and a half - hence the Santa Claus star rating. Not a thing happens that you won’t see coming a hundred yards away, so you can turn your brain off and look at the pretty pictures. You’ll even find yourself chuckling a few times, often at the silliness of the piece (but not in a bad way; at least the filmmakers took it at face value and really went with it). Some of the women – housewives, mostly, and one opera singer – who crowd Dancy’s office for his new-fashioned treatment are quite well cast, with faces perfectly suited to conveying the crescendo of paroxysms. In this case, it truly isn’t over until the fat lady sings.

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