Based on its moniker, Hysteria (of course, inspired by actual events) wouldn't seem like a light, if somewhat impish British period comedy whose premise is based on a technological revolution taking place while medical advances weren't keeping up.
The new costume rom-com starring Hugh Dancy, Jonathan Pryce, Maggie Gyllenhaal, and Felicity Jones (Like Crazy) suggests old-fashioned comedy to especially appease those on the distaff side through specializing in their titular difficulties (in the Victorian era as one character loudly reports the time frame) - from irrationality and anxiety to feeling depressed or faint - with the onset of the electrical vibrator.
The tale, penned by Stephen and Jonah Lisa Dyer has women's practitioner Dr. Dalrymple (Pryce) whose pelvic stimulations have helped those in his clinic reach a temporary "paroxysm," has him taking on ostracized, forward-thinking young doctor Mortimer Granville (Dancy), expressed in idealistic ways that call to mind Hugh Grant (but not at the top of his game).
Granville learns pretty quickly under the mentor to perfect the technique ("like patting your head and rubbing your tummy at the same time") and begins to romance the straitlaced proper blonde daughter of Dalrymple, Emily (Jones), who is sound in phrenology. The wearing, constant work for the protege at Dalrymple's residence leads to cramps that work against the treatment.
A ne'er-do-well aristocratic inventor of a friend Edmund, filled with nutty scene-stealing aplomb by Rupert Everett, has just got his new motorized feather duster working, and soon enough there is a very steady stream of patients (of all ages) waiting for their euphoric moment.
This adaptation of an idea by columnist Howard Gensler may not titillate enough or provide the cinematic cure-all or stimulation given some of its wackiness and the suppressive nature of the times. While Dancy isn't allowed to be the kind of protagonist that would mirthfully take on needy corseted women, Gyllenhaal's impassioned and embarrassing (for her daddy) raising-money-for-the-poor, a bicycling Charlotte (a Susan B. Anthony), Emily's older sister, is a big part of some of the gaffes and conflict that ensue. The actress of Nanny McPhee Returns and Crazy Heart seems to progressively trumpet especially through a narrative strand about her firebrand ways. Even a bit about the queen at the coda doesn't come across as funny as probably intended.
The latter section of Hysteria imparts the importance and predictability of two of the characters for one another with the key setting of the courtroom of being on the stand to fend off the prosecution to result in being remanded to a psychiatric facility. This watchable tale (the period is nicely established notably through its attention especially to costuming and designs) might be a little too cheeky and vacillating like a spunky Charlotte's accent to build up enough eccentric exuberance with more than its share of modern massaging.