05/14/2012 10:14 am ET

Sexuality and Other Female (Film) Troubles

"THE plague of our times," a character declares in "Hysteria," Tanya Wexler's new romantic comedy about the invention of the vibrator in Victorian England, "stems from an overactive uterus." Based loosely on real events and opening on Friday, the film stars Hugh Dancy as Mortimer, a charming, forward-thinking doctor, and Maggie Gyllenhaal as Charlotte, a champion of women's rights.

Though its period detail and depiction of naïve men trying to "cure" hysterical women through pelvic massage seems hilariously out of date, there are moments when issues of women's rights raised (lightly) in the film feel surprisingly relevant. But more than anything, "Hysteria" serves as a reminder that female sexuality is still an unusual subject on screen.

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