The new movie Hysteria answers an age old question, what do women want most? Based on a historic moment in the 1880's when a particular contraption for the alleviation of women's non specific ailments (unhappiness, indigestion, the desire for equality, the right to vote, freedom) was invented, this romantic comedy features an early feminist Charlotte Dalrymple (Maggie Gyllenhaal), her conventional sister Emily (Felicity Jones), their provincial father (Jonathan Pryce), and a young progressive doctor Mortimer Granville played by Hugh Dancy with an easy touch. In the employ of Dr. Dalrymple, he learns to apply just the right manual pressure to give suffering women "paroxysms," never to be confused with sexual pleasure. With the help of a nutty inventor (Rupert Everett), an electronic device was made available for home use. Despite the eh, explosive nature of this subject, this delightful movie is titillating, yet chaste.
On Monday night at the Sunshine Theater, Sony Pictures Classics head Michael Barker addressed an audience that included Valentino, Giancarlo Giammetti, Angela Lansbury, Mamie Gummer, Phillip Bloch, Zadie Smith, among many others. It's good to have a movie premiere on a night when the theaters are dark, he said; then you get a lot of great theater actors. That includes the movie's star, Hugh Dancy, hot on Broadway in Venus in Fur, a Tony-nominated gender bending S&M pas de deux with Nina Arianda, for which he is now nominated for a Drama Desk award. Maggie Gyllenhaal sent a message that she was home in her pajamas with her new baby. Barker congratulated director Tanya Wexler for being a force of nature who managed to make a Merchant Ivory movie with vibrators.
At Hotel Chanelle, a Peggy Siegal party co-sponsored by Jimmyjane, ensued, guests abuzz with anticipation: What was in those white bags? Celebrants went home with vibrators, which in lieu of Hugh himself, would just have to do.
A version of this post also appears on Gossip Central.
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