Art & Culture


It's a shame when someone has an excellent idea but fails to manage to make a good film out of the resulting subject, especially with such a good cast in tow. It could have been so much better.
I think we can assume that if the Carry On team had heard about the invention of the vibrator by Victorian doctors, and had had the nerve to make a film on the subject, they would have done so. It's a pity, then, that a 21st century film starring such terrific actors as Maggie Gyllenhaal and Jonathan Pryce should feel like a latterday relation of a Carry On film. I sense that the director lost his nerve and decided that slapstick was the way to go, when a touch more subtlety might have paid better dividends.
Mortimer Granville (Hugh Dancy) is a young doctor in late Victorian London. He goes to work for Dr Dalrymple (Pryce) who has 2 daughters; one a dynamic feminist/suffragette (Gyllenhaal), and the other, a good girl (Felicity Jones). Most of Dr Dalrymple's patients are women suffering from what the Victorians called hysteria. This was cured by the doctor manipulating the clitoris to orgasm, thus inducing great relief in the patient, with no suggestion of any kind of sexuality having taken place. Hard to believe, but true. Dr Granville takes on his share of this burden (it's not erotic for him, and his hand gets tired), until one day he and his friend Edmund St John-Smythe (Rupert Everett) came up with the idea of creating an implement that would do the job more efficiently, while sparing the doctor from RSI.
If you look on wikipedia, you'll see that there was indeed a Dr Mortimer Granville who invented an early mechanical vibrator, but as a whole, the film does not rung true. There's far too much nudge nudge wink wink going on, and the tacked on plot about the love affair between the righteous feminist and the uptight doctor feels incredibly dated and unconvincing. It's not a million miles from being a good film, and some scenes work well, but the tone is wrong. There is a natural comedy in the situation which doesn't need to be over-egged. It could just emerge naturally from the plot, rather than being plastered on so hamfistedly.
I suspect it's a film which will come and go with great rapidity, falling down the hole between multiplex and arthouse very neatly. I wish I could say it deserves a better fate, but sadly, it doesn't.
I realise there may have been any number of double entendres in this review, given the subject matter. I shall not comment on which were or were not intentional.

Phil Raby

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