Hilary and Jackie (1998)

Description   [from Freebase]

Hilary and Jackie is a 1998 British biographical film directed by Anand Tucker. The screenplay by Frank Cottrell Boyce is based on the memoir A Genius in the Family by Piers and Hilary du Pré, which chronicles the life and career of their late sister, cellist Jacqueline du Pré. The film attracted controversy and criticism for allegedly distorting details in Jacqueline's life, although Hilary du Pré publicly defended her version of the story. The film is divided into two sections, the first telling events from Hilary's point of view and the second from Jackie's. It opens with Hilary and Jackie as children being taught by their mother to dance and play musical instruments, the cello for Jackie and the flute for Hilary. Jackie does not take practising seriously at first, but when she does, she becomes a virtuoso, quickly rising to international prominence. Marriage to pianist and conductor Daniel Barenboim follows. Hilary, on the other hand, plays in a community orchestra and marries Christopher Finzi, the son of composer Gerald Finzi.


It’s getting to the point where I’ve just seen enough movies about crazy musicians and whacked-out siblings. Hilary and Jackie gives us both(!), so if you haven’t had your fill of these two genres, here’s a chance to knock both out at once.

The true story of the Du Pre sisters, we get to see them grow up and become famous musicians. Hilary (Griffiths) ends up opting out of the limelight to raise kids and chickens in the country. Jackie (Watson) goes all-out in her quest to be a solo cellist, and of course, she goes totally bonkers before too long.

The film meanders along, mainly following Jackie’s psychosis and later, her development of multiple sclerosis, from which she died at the age of 42. The film is made in a bizarre style – the kids grow up together, then the movie focuses on Hilary’s life, then it backtracks and tells us what happened to Jackie during the same period of time. Obviously an attempt to (a) be clever, and (b) break away from typical story structure, Hilary and Jackie ends up failing at the former, more important, task. The movie ends up being repetitious and, frankly, annoying by the time it’s over.

Still, Watson’s performance and the ambition of the picture can’t be denied. The music sounds great in surround sound (I screened it on video), and the cinematography is quite lush. Too bad it all doesn’t come together very well.

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