A review - by Shlomoh Sherman
June 22, 2012

Director: Tanya Wexler
Writers: Stephen Dyer, Jonah Lisa Dyer
Stars: Maggie Gyllenhaal, Hugh Dancy and Jonathan Pryce
Plot: The truth of how Mortimer Granville devised the invention of the first vibrator in the name of medical science.
Genre: Comedy - Romance
Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)
Rated R for sexual content
Release Date: November 17, 2011 (Russia)
Filming Locations: London, England, UK
Company Credits:
Production Co: Informant Media, Forthcoming Productions, Beachfront Films
Run Time: 100 minutes
Tagline: A comedy about the birth of the vibrator in Victorian England.
Molly: What do you call that little thing?
Mortimer Granville: I was calling it the feather duster.
Molly: Well I'd think of something quick, so that a girl knows what to ask for. Country: UK - France - Germany - Luxembourg
Language: English
Trivia: Dr. Granville’s electromechanical vibrator was portable but had a wet cell battery that weighed about 40 pounds.

In the Victorian period in London, a young doctor, Dr. Mortimer Granville, applies for work. He is hired as an assistant by Dr. Robert Dalrymple who runs a clinic catering to women diagnosed with "female hysteria" using "pelvic massage", actually digital stimulation of the clitoris. The doctor's daughters, Charlotte and Emily,develop an interest in Dr. Granville.

Dalrymple is impressed with his new assistant and they quickly bond in fruitfull partnership to the extent that Dalrymple hints that when he is gone, Granville shall take over his practice. In the meanwhile, Granville and Emily become romantically involved and eventually she becomes his fiancee.

While initially attracted to the demure Emily Dalrymple, Granville later falls in love with her older sister Charlotte, a premodern feminist activist who establishes a social welfare house for the poor. Emily later realizes that she does not love Granville and has only becme engaged to him to please her father. The two breal off the engagement and promise to be friends.

Granville's friend, Lord Edmund St. John-Smythe, developes an electrical fan, the vibrations of which give Granville the idea to modify the gadget, creating the first electircal feminie vibrator in history.
Genital massage of women had been a medical remedy for hysteria, a so-called female malady until the American Psychiatric Association discontinued this term in 1952. Female hysteria was looked upon as an unmanageable emotional excess in which the women lost self-control due to an overwhelming fear that may be caused by any number of events leading to irrational acting out. Hysteria was thought to be caused by disturbances of the uterus, from the Greek "hystera", uterus.

Charlotte's father, Dr. Dalrymple, is not happy with her involvement with the "dirty" poor and does everything in his power to prevent her from continuing on her crusade to help them. Eventually Dr. Dalrymple purchases the deed to the property on which the welfare house is located and closes it down. Charlottearrives at the house just as the police are locking the gates. She attempts to stop the officers and in a fit of rage strikes one of them for which she is arrested and put on trial for assaulting an officer of the law.

During the trial, the prosecutor accuses Charlotte of acting out of hysteria and orders her to be incarcerated and to undergo a hysterectomy. Her father sits by passively while this harsh penalty is imposed on his older daughter. But Granville saves the day. Called upon as an expert witness in "women's medical problems", he gives testimony that the whole notion of hysteria and its connection to the womb is a falsehood perpertrated by men who are less than sympathetic to women's sexuality and opposed to women's fight for social equality. Based on his testimony the judge declares Charlotte guilty of assault and gives her a suspended sentence, declaring that if every woman in England, including his own wife, were a hysteric, the jails and loony bins would be filled to overflowing.

Outside the courthouse, Granville declares his love for Charlotte and proposes marriage to her on bended knee. Charlotte answers that she can only marry him if he proves himself to be a good kisser. The scene and the movie end with both of them hugging and kissing.

I saw this movie last Saturday, June 16, with the Cleveland Skeptics Meetup group and all seven of us enjoyed it immensely.

However, whatever this movie is about, it is also a movie about victimization, the victimization of women. Charlotte Dalrymple and Mortimer Granville may have been lucky enough to have overcome a bad situation but what about the many women who were abused because of men's ignorance or willfullness? The way I see it, "hysteria" was used to supress women's voices in a changing world. Not every woman was as courageous as Charlotte or fortunatate enough to have a suitor like Granville. Western women HAVE achieved their independence and their sexual liberation but women in other parts of the world still have their private parts at the whim of unkind men.

Euclid, OH
June 22, 2012


Cast, first billed only:
Cast overview, first billed only:
Hugh Dancy ... Mortimer Granville
Maggie Gyllenhaal ... Charlotte Dalrymple
Jonathan Pryce ... Dr. Robert Dalrymple
Felicity Jones ... Emily Dalrymple
Rupert Everett ... Edmund St. John-Smythe
Ashley Jensen ... Fannie
Sheridan Smith ... Molly
Gemma Jones ... Lady St. John-Smythe
Malcolm Rennie ... Lord St. John-Smythe
Kim Criswell ... Mrs. Castellari
Georgie Glen ... Mrs. Parsons
Elisabet Johannesdottir ... Mrs. Pearce
Linda Woodhall ... Nurse Smalley
Kim Selby ... Lady Wheaton
John Overstall ... Mr. Huddleston

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