Hysteria

June 14, 2012 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Hugh Dancy, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Felicity Jones
Directed by: Tanya Wexler (“Ball in the House”)
Written by: Stephen Dyer (“Ball in the House”) and Jonah Lisa Dyer (debut)

During the closing credits of “Hysteria,” a period comedy that tells the story of how the female vibrator came to be invented, the device’s history is presented in photos of the ever-evolving sex toy over the last 100 or so years. It’s some of the most interesting information offered by the film, which, despite its intriguing narrative, doesn’t satisfy the more complex issues women faced in the late 19th century. Instead, director Tanya Wexler and screenwriters Stephen and Jonah Dyer choose to wink their eye at the audience, toss out double entendres like they were free condoms during Spring Break, and hope the lighthearted nature of their screenplay is enough to overlook the film’s bigger problems.

Actor Hugh Dancy is definitely not one of the pitfalls of “Hysteria.” He stars as Mortimer Granville, a young doctor who finds himself dealing with a medical condition known as hysteria, which, at the time, was affecting half of the women in Britain. Insomnia, depression, and nervousness were only some of the symptoms of the disorder, which would later be understood to be more about sexual frustration than anything. When Mortimer lands a job with a doctor (Jonathan Pryce) specializing in treating women suffering from hysteria, he doesn’t find the work as gratifying as he had hoped, although he makes quite a name for himself for delivering relief to his female patients. He is also quite smitten with the doctor’s prim and proper daughter Emily (Felicity Jones) and confused by her volatile sister Charlotte (Maggie Gyllenhaal).

While “Hysteria” demands attention for its own sexual revolution like 2004’s biopic “Kinsey” on scientist Alfred Kinsey, not all the pieces are here to make that happen. Dancy is marvelous as the straight-laced doctor who wants to be taken seriously as a professional, but his interaction with Gyllenhaal is not very convincing. Neither is his relationship with Jones, whose role as a wallflower is wasted.

In a comedy that should be screaming female liberation from the rooftop, Wexler and her writers seem to think any genuine thoughts or feelings of the women involved are inconsequential since we never hear from them (besides the squeals of ecstasy at the hands of Dr. Granville). Give “Hysteria” credit for livening up the era, but by not saying more than a few oohs and aahs, it really is a missed opportunity to mark a noteworthy event in medical history.

Adam

August 28, 2009 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Hugh Dancy, Rose Byrne, Peter Gallagher
Directed by: Max Mayer (“Better Living”)
Written by: Max Mayer (“Better Living”)

It’s no “Rain Man,” but the new romantic dramedy “Adam” paints a realistic picture of someone living with a development disorder and combines it with a sweet and gentle love story that is hard to resist even during its most mawkish moments.

Hugh Dancy (“Confessions of a Shopaholic”) gives a fine performance as Adam Raki, a 29-year-old man living a lonely life in Manhattan with a type of high-functioning autism called Asperger’s Syndrome. The disability causes Adam to feel anxious in social situations and affects certain aspects of his behavior.

When Adam’s father passes away, he is left to make it on his own and falls back into the comfort of his daily routine as a mechanical engineer for a toy company. It’s a perfect job for the introverted Adam who is able to keep to himself and tinker away with gadgets without being bothered.

Adam’s habitual lifestyle is given a little boost when he meets Beth Buchwald (Rose Byrne), a new girl who has moved into his apartment building and cautiously takes a liking to Adam’s oddities. Adam, an expert in all things space related, attempts to befriend her with his knowledge of astronomy and the theory of relativity. Beth is fairly interested, but seems more fascinated with his little idiosyncrasies (he takes things too literally, rambles, and can’t connect emotionally to people). He’s like a less self-pitying version of Zach Braff’s character in “Garden State.”

As their friendship and relationship blossom, Adam and Beth learn more about each other and what makes the other tick. While director/writer Max Mayer (“Better Living”) keeps his couple at the center of his cinematic universe for the majority of the picture, a secondary storyline about Beth’s father (Peter Gallagher) comes out of left field and burdens the picture with a family dynamic that just doesn’t fit into the framing of the story.

Still, Mayer does as satisfactory job with his two leads. He never lets Adam’s limitations become a one-note joke or easy way out of a difficult scene. As Adam and Beth continue their relationship, Mayer, while playing it a bit too safe in the narrative, allows them to develop their bond logically and without the stereotypical plot points you would see in other offbeat romances.

Who knew guys with Aspberger’s Syndrome were going to become the most dateable guys around? At least that’s what Dancy does with Adam and all his charms. With some inviting depth to the character, “Adam” is more than a movie about someone learning how to deal with his or her special needs.

Confessions of a Shopaholic

February 5, 2009 by  
Filed under Kiko, Reviews

Starring: Isla Fisher, Hugh Dancy, Kristen Scott Thomas
Directed by: P.J. Hogan (“My Best Friend’s Wedding”)
Written by: Tracey Jackson (“The Guru”), Tim Firth (“Kinky Boots”), and Kayla Alpert (debut)

Give credit to screenwriters Tracey Jackson, Tim Firth, and Kayla Alpert. No, not for their dopey adaptation of author Sophie Kinsella’s work, but for figuring out a way to incorporate both her books (“Confessions of a Shopaholic” and “Shopaholic Takes Manhattan”) into only one movie. Now, we don’t have to sit through a second one.

In “Confessions of a Shopaholic,” rising star Isla Fisher (“Wedding Crashers) stars as Rebecca Bloomwood, a Manhattan reporter who spends her days drooling over Gucci bags and dodging credit collectors because of her unhealthy addiction to shopping. (“They said I was a valued customer, now they send me hate mail” is the funniest line Fisher delivers in the entire movie).

With 12 credit cards maxed out, Rebecca finds herself over $9,000 in debt just when the magazine she writes for goes bankrupt. Setting her sights to work at one of the most prominent fashion magazines in the city (who better to write about clothes than someone who has so many?), Rebecca, instead, ends up landing a job at a financial publication when she impresses the editor (Hugh Dancy) with her out-of-the-box ideas on topics most people would find tedious.

After only one column, Rebecca becomes a star journalist and everyone wants to meet her. While she manages to rub elbows with publishers and work her way to the top, Rebecca lives in fear that someone will find out she is giving financial advice to her readers when she, too, is living in debt.

While Fisher has proven she can hold her own in comedies like “Wedding Crashers,” there simply isn’t enough material in this faux “Sexy and the City” episode for her to perform to that level. Fisher is better than exaggerated slapstick, but there’s nothing here to showcase her natural talent. In one of the funnier scenes of “Shopaholic,” Fisher reacts to how ugly a bridesmaid’s dress looks on her. With a few squeals and some hilarious facial expressions, she makes the scene work.

But those occasions are too few and far between in “Shopaholic.” It’s disappointing since the film is directed by P.J. Hogan, who helmed one of the best rom coms of the 90s in “My Best Friend’s Wedding,” It’s less surprising when you find out producer Jerry Bruckheimer’s name is attached. Just when you thought he couldn’t possibly ruin anymore film genres, Bruckheimer manages to aimlessly wander into no man’s land and will definitely wander out a few dollars richer. Somebody stop him before he figures out what a musical comedy is.