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Hilary and Jackie

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All-Reviews.com Movie Review: Hilary and Jackie

Starring: Emily Watson, Rachel Griffiths
Director: Anand Tucker
Rated: R
RunTime: 120 Minutes
Release Date: January 1999
Genres: Drama, Music


*Also starring: James Frain, David Morrisey, Charles Dance, Celia Imrie, Rupert Penry-Jones, Bill Paterson, Nyree Dawn Porter, Vernon Dobtcheff



Review by Walter Frith
3½ stars out of 4

'Hilary and Jackie' is the stuff that sibling rivalries are made of. Pleasant ones that is. As one of the most human stories of 1998, the film has the classic detail of what is supposed to happen while preparing a film script to go before the cameras. Director Anand Tucker has pictured the entire structure of the film inside his head perfectly and has elevated it to the screen with a unique and even structure that tells an old fashioned tale with the highest of culture. And, like 1996's 'Shine', Tucker makes the film about family even though it will be mistaken by many to be about music, which is its secondary theme.

No technical aspect of a motion picture is more important than the use of its music soundtrack. I remember some years ago at the Oscar ceremonies that a clip was shown from several motion pictures without their music background and the audience laughed at how preposterous it was and then broke into applause when the same scenes were shown with their music included, showing a stark contrast that allowed people to breath a sigh of relief at just how important music is to a film. 'Hilary and Jackie' has a beautiful classical score that overwhelms the audience with genuine emotion and makes it even more memorable than it would be with a lesser emphasis on musical harmony.

Jaqueline du Pré (Emily Watson) is a cellist and her sister Hilary (Rachel Griffiths) plays the flute. From the time they were children, their parents instilled in them a sense of musical pride and guided them through their studies to the level of professionals when they were still in their teens. Based on a true story set primarily in the 60's and 70's, the film has exquisite cinematography that sings a harmonic tune all its own.

The two women marry early in life and and while Hilary is clearly the more mature of the two, talent is surely abound in all forms of human personality. The true line that tests the theory of genius being formed on the brink of the human mind gone mad, the film touches on this fact without becoming heavy handed and the film proclaims that sometimes one needs family around them when all other forms of personal contact seem meaningless.

Children are forthcoming in their marriages and as the film progresses, the story throws itself deeper and deeper into the ocean in personal relationships that never seems tiresome or too intrusive but rather a theme that many can relate to.

Emily Watson made her film debut in 1996's 'Breaking the Waves' and received an Oscar nomination for it. This film (her 5th in three years) will almost certainly bring her her second nomination and she is even more powerful in this movie than in 'Breaking the Waves'. Her portrayal of Jaqueline du Pré in 'Hilary and Jackie' is complex, showing her genius for playing the cello while growing to despise playing it later in life. But this fact is never quite put across in a convincing manner and that isn't a negative reflection on the film. It simply means that Jaqueline du Pré, I believe, really wanted to play but was afraid of success and how her life might change while mastering her craft.

Without giving too much away for those unfamiliar with how this true story ends, let's just say that after viewing this film, you will not only have a deeper appreciation of music and film, but these things will seem small when seeing just how large the human heart can be.

Copyright © 1998 Walter Frith

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