HILARY AND JACKIE
The story: Jacqueline du Pré, called by some "the greatest
talent to ever play the cello," was born in Oxford in 1947. After showing
considerable talent at a young age, Jacqueline eventually studied under
such famous cellists as Casals, Tortelier and Rostropovich. At 20, she recorded
the Elgar Concerto with the London Symphony Orchestra, a recording which
established her as a star. She was married in 1967 to pianist Daniel Barenboim,
and the two produced many recordings together. Then, in 1973, she was diagnosed
with MS, and her health began to deteriorate. She died in 1987 at 42.
The film: When the sisters are young, they both show promise in music
Hilary with the flute, Jackie with the cello. At first it is Hilary
who wins the competitions and impresses the judges, but eventually, Jackie
surpasses her. She is whisked into a musical career, touring the globe while
Hilary settles down and gets married. Jackie's quick rise to fame proves
overwhelming, however, and soon the weight of stardom begins to wear her
down. She abandons her career and returns home, staying with Hilary and
her husband for a while. Finally she decides she must face her lot in life,
not knowing that it is about to take another unpleasant turn.
Watson's range is evident: She is able to portray the playful young girl;
the petty, immature woman with fame thrust upon her; the pain of a crippling
disease; the wistfulness of having chosen an unforgiving path. Not to mention
learning how to copy du Pré's famous physical style of playing the
cello. Her honesty with the part is beautiful; Jackie only thrives as the
center of attention and holds little respect for the accolades thrust upon
her. She tells people she hates the cello, intentionally abuses her instrument,
and mails her dirty laundry home to be washed. But through Watson's performance
and the subtleties of Boyce's script and Tucker's direction, we see that
these acts are just desperate attempts to reach out for love and intimacy.
We see it in her face when her clothes return, bathed in the fragrance of
The script is genuine, and shows us a large segment of the girls' lives
from both viewpoints, illustrating how differently the two women perceive
certain events. There are powerful performances all around in this film,
not only by Watson and Griffiths, but also by David Morrissey as Hilary's
husband Kiffer, and Charles Dance and Celia Imrie as the girls' parents.
As in many films that portray life with true realism, there is no villain
here, except perhaps human nature. It is interesting to note that the Elgar
Cello Concerto used in this film is the actual duPré recording.
Hilary And Jackie is a classic tragedy, but also a triumph: It illustrates not only the taxing nature of fame but the victory of love over adversity. ****½
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