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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 MrBrown
4 stars out of 4

Hilary (Rachel Griffiths) and Jacqueline (Emily Watson) du Pre are a sisterly pair of child musical prodigies: Hilary on the flute and Jacqueline on the cello. As an adult, Hilary gives up music to live a normal life; Jackie, on the other hand, embarks on a wildly successful career as a concert cellist, winning over worldwide audiences with her flamboyant brand of skill and showmanship. The divergent trajectories of their lives (and not in the way one would expect) and the resulting emotional and physical fallout threatens the sisters' strong bond.

According to the press notes, the fact-based _Hilary_and_Jackie_ was "written and produced as a tribute to Jackie," and, as such, the focus lies squarely on Jackie--and how could it not, with the extraordinary Watson in the role. For me, she is the woman to beat for best actress of the year delivering a stunning performance that captures the entire spectrum of her personality: from sweetness to bitterness, from madness to illness.

But the film is not called _Hilary_and_Jackie_ for nothing, and not just because Griffiths does some terrific--and sure to be underrated--work as the more stable sister. In an ingenious storytelling tactic, director Anand Tucker and screenwriter Frank Cottrell Boyce split the story in three sections, giving clear definition to both sisters. "Hilary and Jackie" details their youth together up until a crucial point where they are separated. "Hilary" focuses on Hilary's quiet life and her ever-shifting feelings about Jackie, who periodically reappears. Finally, there's "Jackie," which picks up at the first section's cutoff point and assumes Jackie's perspective. As we see her turbulent life unfold, her character is given greater dimension, providing vivid reasons for some of Jackie's more erratic behavior in the "Hilary" section (some events from which are retold from Jackie's perspective here). The result is an uncommonly well-rounded portrait of a tormented genius, and a supremely affecting story of real people, only slightly marred by a bit of arbitrary surrealism at the end (which, coincidentally, also marred--moreso--Watson's breakthrough film, 1996's _Breaking_the_Waves_).

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