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Movie Reviews: 'Hysteria' and 'What to Expect When You're Expecting'

It's ladies night and the feeling's right


Director: Tanya Wexler
Rating R. Running Time: 100 minutes.
Stars: Maggie Gyllenhaal, Hugh Dancy, Jonathan Pryce, Felicity Jones, Rupert Everett

What To Expect When You're Expecting

Director: Kirk Jones.
Rating PG-13. Running Time: 110 minutes.
Stars: Cameron Diaz, Dennis Quaid, Anna Kendrick, Jennifer Lopez, Matthew Morrison.

Ladies, gather your book club pals and set a date for a movie night this summer. Two films, one from the typically earnest indie movie house Sony Pictures Classics and the other from the more mainstream but also independent studio Lionsgate, are in store just for you. Have a cocktail, lower your expectations (this isn't fine literature, mind you) and enjoy a few chuckles — along with an unexpected heart tug — at your local cineplex.

See also: Answers to your top sex questions.

Maggie Gyllenhaal as Charlotte Dalrymple and Hugh Dancy as Mortimer Granville

Maggie Gyllenhaal as Charlotte Dalrymple and Hugh Dancy as Mortimer Granville — Liam Daniel, Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics

Classics' Hysteria, a Victorian-era period piece loaded with mega-talent — Maggie Gyllenhaal, Hugh Dancy, Jonathan Pryce, Felicity Jones and Rupert Everett — is based ever-so-loosely on a true story. In 1880s London, Dr. Robert Dalrymple (Pryce) is running a thriving practice treating women suffering from "hysteria," then a catchall diagnosis for all manner of maladies ranging from depression to frigidity to the desire for voting rights, by manually massaging the patient's vulva to produce a "paroxysm."

Mortimer Granville (Dancy), a young, forward-thinking physician, joins the practice and soon falls for Dalrymple's proper, prudish daughter Emily (Jones). Simultaneously, he realizes that manipulating women to orgasm is causing him severe hand cramps. Enter his wealthy inventor pal Edmund St. John Smythe (brilliantly portrayed by Everett) who, while toying with a handheld feather duster he's devised, engenders in Granville the idea for the predecessor to today's electric vibrator.

The film is entertainingly lighthearted, with Gyllenhaal, as Charlotte, Dalrymple's other daughter, offering levity to the tale. Charlotte is a feminist ahead of her time, running a shelter for disadvantaged women and children on London's poor side. She questions her father's stereotypical view of women and his method of profiting off of them, while Granville grows increasingly intrigued with her. You can guess what happens next.

Next: You read the book now see the (totally unrelated) movie. »

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