Oh look, ducks! A satisfying look at women in Victorian England – Hysteria

Hysteria - Official Poster - from IMDB.com

Hysteria – Official Poster – from IMDB.com

Hysteria (2012)

Director: Tanya Wexler
Writers: Stephen Dyer (story & screenplay), Jonah Lisa Dyer (story & screenplay), and Howard Gensler (original story)
Stars: Maggie Gyllenhaal, Hugh Dancy and Jonathan Pryce

It’s amazing to think that we were once at a point in society when “germs” was a term that only those who were highly educated and kept up with the latest medical literature knew. It’s also amazing that once the cure to pretty much all of women’s ailments came in the form of induced orgasm. For a topic that is so controversial and frowned upon by respectable people it is amazing that Hysteria was such a joy to watch.

Hysteria is based on a true story of a man named Mortimer Granville (Hugh Dancy) who found himself as the accomplice to Dr Robert Dalrymple (Jonathan Pryce), a doctor who specialised in women’s health, mainly the treatment of hysteria, a diagnosis of women who had all sorts of symptoms and was treated by helping the women by ridding them of these ailments in a most unusual way. Dr Dalrymple has two daughters, Emily (Felicity Jones) who is very sensible and all of what a true woman should be, and Charlotte (Maggie Gyllenhaal) who is volatile, erratic, a fervent suffragette, and who runs a shelter for women and their children and teaches them about hygiene, literacy, and numeracy. Charlotte is everything a woman of the Victorian period should not be.

As Granville continues to serve his patients he himself suffers an ailment in his hand which makes him unable to fulfill the procedure required to cure his patients of hysteria. It is with the friendship of Granville and his inventor friend Edmund St. John-Smyth (Rupert Everett) that holds the key to Granville’s continued employment and ultimate success.

But this film isn’t about the invention of the vibrator as the posters and blurbs will tell you. Hysteria is about the ill-treatment of women and their capabilities even to this day. Gyllenhaal’s vibrant and passionate portrayal of Charlotte Dalrymple is inspiring as you see her struggle to change the culture in which she lives by simply caring for those less well off. It is through her servitude to the lower classes that she makes a huge difference in the long run for those she helps. She is a socialist, a libertarian, a woman. It is this characterisation which holds the entire film together for me. It reveals the true nature of what was going on at the time and sheds some light on what is still going on in our society today.

This film is light-hearted and fun. Rupert Everett is brilliant as ever and Hugh Dancy plays an uptight Brit most splendidly. I think this story could only be told faithfully in a British and prudish manner as it deals with a subject that could be twisted and sexualised and thus lose a lot of its appeal. It is told in a period manner with all the nuances of innuendo and suggestion and it is truly satisfying in the way it addresses an awkward invention and period in history.

It’s not the greatest film ever made, nor is it probably even up in the top 500 but it is delightfully light and well performed by all involved. Top marks go to the costume and set designers of this film. It is gorgeous to watch. And Maggie Gyllenhaal is so wonderful as a Brit that I wish she was more highly acclaimed than she is. She is a marvelous actress and  is charming to watch. I’d go see it just for her.

For a film that could truly be awkward and unappealing, Hysteria offers a pleasurable look at the invention of the modern vibrator and the beginning of women’s health in Britain.

Laughing with someone makes it all bearable – Ted

Ted - Official Poster - from IMDB.com

Ted – Official Poster – from IMDB.com

Ted (2012)

Director: Seth MacFarlane
Writers: Seth MacFarlane (story & screenplay), and Alen Sulkin (screenplay), and Wellesley Wild (screenplay)
Stars: Mark Wahlberg, Mila Kunis and Seth MacFarlane

There is something beautiful about going and seeing a film for free when you don’t expect it, and seeing it with a friend who could came along at the last minute and who is a joy to be around. This was the circumstance that I found myself in when I saw Ted tonight. My friend Lizzie and I rocked up to see an Australian film (The Sapphires – review to come soon, when I get around to seeing it – out August 10) but the cinema had booked a smaller cinema than the distributer had requested and so we were given the option of seeing a different film. Lizzie and I decided on Ted because we had both seen the other option offered. I hadn’t planned to see Ted, mainly because it’s not my usual type of film. I’m not a huge fan of crass and gross humour and not a fan of Mila Kunis and so the only selling point for me was Mark Wahlberg. But with all the negatives I held up against this film I actually found it very funny and enjoyable.

Let me say that I really think that whether you like a film or not depends on both the quality of the film and also the environment in which you see it, especially who you see it with. I don’t think I would’ve enjoyed this movie as much if I had seen it on my own or with some of my other friends. And that is no criticism on them, it is just a simple fact of being able to enjoy something a little bit different at a fun moment in the day after a bit of disappointment and just rolling with it.

Ted is the story of a boy who makes a wish when he is 8 for his Teddy Bear to be a real friend. It is a sweet premise and overall I really loved the idea of a man being so connected with a childhood friend that they are still friends thirty years later. The faithfulness, the loyalty, and the bond between Ted and John are really quite beautiful in a lot of ways. And then the adult Ted kicks in, and well that’s when it turns a little chaotic. There are some moments in Ted which were gross and I cringed a little bit at them, but there were also some very clever lines and in-jokes (especially for those who know of Seth McFarlane) and it was these moments that I laughed at most. There were also just a lot of little moments of real silliness that was just plain humourous.

Mark Wahlberg and Mila Kunis’ performances were stellar but the best performance has to go to Ryan Reynolds. His cameo performance is pure genius. There is a wonderful understated nature to a lot of little moments in this film that make it incredibly funny for our generation but it is also one of those things that mean in ten or twenty years time will go unnoticed and unappreciated. I know that not everyone will love this film but if you have enjoyed popular culture over the last ten years you will probably enjoy this film at least a little bit.

I still stand by my original stance that I would not have seen this film if I had to pay for it but I am really glad I saw it. Seth McFarlane has created a great filmic balance between humour and endearment which leaves you with a positive feeling as you giggle your way out the cinema door. It is this balance that makes it an enjoyable film and it is the endearment that balances out the crass humour which makes it more bearable than other some other similar comedies.