Mia: Typical of male thinking circa 1880, and probably 1980, too. It took courageous women like his daughter, Charlotte Dalrymple (Maggie Gyllenhaal), to break through such ignorance.
Steve: She believed that women who were frustrated sexually and suffered from "hysteria" were the victims of incompetent men — not an "overactive uterus," as doctors believed at the time.
Mia: The women were victims of their own sexual ignorance, not just men’s. For the life of me, I can’t see why those Victorian chicks couldn’t just do for themselves what the doctor did for them.
Steve: Guilt, probably. Did you notice that for a movie about vibrators, "Hysteria" is quite chaste? The most graphic sex scene was the mating ducks. In fact, the movie is rated NC-17 for ducks.
Mia: It leaves to viewers’ imagination what the doctors were doing to their female patients. All I can say is diddly-do-da, if you know what I mean.
Steve: And it was no surprise that when Dr. Dalrymple added Dr. Mortimer Granville (Hugh Dancy) to his practice, business boomed. I mean, whose hand would you rather have manipulating you — Jonathan Pryce’s or Hugh Dancy’s?
Mia: I’d rather have George Clooney’s.
Steve: Did you find it ironic that Granville’s invention of the vibrator (or "portable electric massager") destroyed that branch of medicine? I mean, if you were frustrated and needed a "paroxysm" today, you’d be out of luck finding a doctor.
Mia: Well, there’s always the Rabbit Pearl Vibrator.
Steve: Someday we’ll all be replaced by machines. I kind of liked one of their suggested names for the vibrator: Mr. Wobbly.
Mia: Too male-centric. How about Ms. Wobbly?
Steve: The way various women reacted was amusing. One cried out, "Tally ho!" And how about the fat lady? When achieving paroxysm, did you ever break out into an operatic aria?
Mia: No, but I’ve felt like belting out a tune immediately afterward. What gets me about those scenes in the doctor’s office is how mechanical the physicians seemed. Guys today would line up around the block for their job.
Steve: Even with high risk of repetitive-stress injury?
Mia: By the way, I don’t believe that those newfangled massagers felt all that great. Maybe back then, they were better than nothing. But I still don’t get why those dames didn’t take matters into their own hands, so to speak.
Steve: I bet in France they did. Overall, I’d say it was a fun movie, although a bit heavy-handed with the social-issues subplot.
Mia: Therein lies the problem — heavy-handed men.
Steve: One nice touch was the images of vibrators through the years, which accompanied the closing credits. Who knew that you could find vibrators in the Sears catalog? Or that Hitachi made a vibrator? Was it in stereo?
Mia: And since they were considered "massagers," women didn’t bother to stash them in their nightstands. They’d keep them right out on their bureaus. I hope the takeaway from this movie is that a lot of women need more than straight-up intercourse to feel satisfied.
Steve: You mean like BMWs, furs and diamonds?
Mia: I mean that women need to go out and buy more vibrators.
Steve: I’d better invest in Hitachi.
Steve is a 50-something married man who’s been around the block. Mia is a younger, recently married woman with an altogether different attitude. They may not agree, but they have plenty of answers. Email S&M@phillynews.com or write: S&M, c/o Daily News, 400 N. Broad St., Philadelphia, PA 19130.