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dir Tanya Wexler
scr Stephen Dyer, Jonah Lisa Dyer
prd Tracey Becker, Judy Cairo, Sarah Curtis
with Hugh Dancy, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Jonathan Pryce, Rupert Everett, Felicity Jones, Sheridan Smith, Ashley Jensen, Anna Chancellor, Gemma Jones, Malcolm Rennie, Kim Criswell, Georgie Glen
release US 18.May.12, UK 21.Sep.12
Whoopsie daisy: Dancy and Gyllenhaal
TORONTO FILM FEST
|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E|
With an unexpected slapstick tone, this film recounts the real events that led to the invention of the vibrator. But even if it belittles the innovative people involved, it's an enjoyably silly romp.
In the 1880s, progressive young doctor Mortimer (Dancy) takes a job with Dalrymple, whose practice specialises in the treatment of hysteria. This was considered a serious medical condition at the time, but Dalrymple's independent-minded daughter Charlotte (Gyllenhaal) notes that it only afflicts wealthy women whose husbands neglect their social and sexual needs. While treating these women, Mortimer falls for Dalrymple's placid younger daughter Emily (Jones), placing himself in line to take over the practice. Then he and his friend Edmund (Everett) create a vibrating device that treats these women much more effectively.
The catalyst for the invention is Mortimer's repetitive strain injury, one of the movie's more clever gags. But the filmmakers find too much of the humour in silly wink-wink vulgarity, which makes them seem more prudish than the repressed characters. For all of the talk about sexual satisfaction, sex itself is merely the punchline of every innuendo-filled joke. Even Everett jumps on this camp bandwagon, filling his performance with eyebrow-raising groans at every mention of female physiology.
Yes, everything is played with a smile despite the serious issues involved (including women's rights, bigotry and poverty). The rom-com plot is so obviously signposted from the start that here are no surprises, and every potentially awkward encounter is resolved with another arch bit of mock disdain. There's even a gag lifted straight from Mel Brooks' Young Frankenstein. So none of the characters ever develops any weight, despite the important things they're dealing with.
Still, these are gifted actors who have a decent sense of timing, so they're able to add a hint of gravitas beneath the surface while avoiding most of the stereotypes. As a whole, the movie is quick-paced and sometimes laugh-out-loud hilarious, with brief moments of strong emotion and dark drama thrown in here and there. But by trivialising historical events, the filmmakers miss the chance to create an involving social comedy that could have taught us a thing or two about our own repressive culture.
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© 2012 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall|
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