Hilary And Jackie

1998, Movie, R, 124 mins


A brilliant, heart-wrenching examination of the intense, contradictory relationship between sisters Hilary (Rachel Griffiths) and Jacqueline (Emily Watson) du Pré: Both were talented child musicians, but prodigy Jacqueline grew up to become a world-renowned cellist, only to see her brilliant career cut cruelly short by multiple sclerosis. The film opens in England in the '50s, as the young siblings study with their brittle, quietly determined mother, who admonishes that they must "always be as good as each other," setting the stage for a fierce, lifelong rivalry that rubs shoulders uneasily with a bond so deep it's nearly telepathic. Though flutist Hilary's talents emerge first, Jacqueline's quickly eclipse them: Jackie becomes the glittering black hole that sucks up all the family's energy and emotional resources. Jackie's love-hate relationship with her own prodigious gifts -- which she blames for her wild mood swings and desperate insecurity -- turns her into an egocentric monster, more tormented and lonely than her family realizes, while Hilary sublimates her creative energies into marriage to convivial conductor Kiffer (David Morrissey) and child-bearing. Drawing heavily from the memoir A Genius in the Family, by Hilary du Pré and her brother Piers, Anand Tucker's double portrait of sisters bound together so tightly they can barely move without hurting each other is uncannily reminiscent of GEORGIA: The music is different, but the song is the same. First-time feature director Tucker displays an astonishingly assured touch, allowing his phenomenal cast to creep into their characters' skins and surrounding them with images of shimmering and slightly threatening beauty. Without relying excessively on heavy-handed symbolism, Tucker reminds us that beauty demands its tribute and unwanted gifts can be curses in disguise. leave a comment --Maitland McDonagh

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