The plague of our times," a character declares in "Hysteria," Tanya Wexler’s new film, "stems from an overactive uterus." The time is Victorian England and the focus is the invention of the vibrator. The romantic comedy, which plays at the Tribeca Film Festival on Thursday and opens commercially on May 18, stars Hugh Dancy as Mortimer, a forward-thinking doctor, and Maggie Gyllenhaal as Charlotte, a champion of women's rights and the rebellious daughter of Mr. Dancy's mentor, as well as his romantic match.
Though its period detail and depiction of naïve men trying to "cure" hysterical women through womb massage seems hilariously out of date, there are moments when issues of women's rights raised (lightly) in the film feel surprisingly relevant. We spoke with Ms. Gyllenhaal by telephone about "Hysteria" and why there are still so few good sex scenes. Here are edited excerpts from the conversation: