Hilary and Jackie

***

Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

Those lucky enough to have seen Jacqueline du Pre live, remember the passion of her playing and the warmth of her personality. Neither of these characteristics are much in evidence on screen. She seems bad-tempered, spoilt, lonely and ungrateful. When Emily Watson re-enacts the famous flinging-herself-about concert style, you are aware of a performance, rather than genuine rapture. It would be wrong to think of this as the biopic of a unique musical talent. It is the story of two sisters, one whom became famous and the other who should have, but didn't.

The opening sequence of them as little girls, playing on a beach, is unconvincing in every respect, especially when they come across the desolate figure of a woman standing at the water's edge. The director, Anand Tucker, is not capable of coaxing natural performances from his young actresses, which gives the early section a stilted, false feel.

Once grown-up Hilary forsakes the flute and marries Kiffer, an unconventional budding conductor. They live in the depth of the country and have two daughters. Jackie marries Daniel Barenboim, a rising international star and classical music pin-up. James Frain plays him as a tailor's dummy, skinny and effeminate, with less panache than a parking ticket.

The film's highlights are when Jackie, suffering a nervous breakdown, seduces Kiffer in the cottage under Hilary's nose, and later, as multiple sclerosis takes hold, deteriorates rapidly into a depressed and useless rag doll. Even an actress as emotionally honest as Watson cannot make Jackie likable. Hilary is different, the wife and mother, sympathetically played by Rachel Griffith, while David Morrissey, as Kiffer, is fiercely good. With such material it is hard to fail. Tucker does not succeed, that's all. And Jacqueline du Pre loses. Her music loses even more.

Reviewed on: 19 Jan 2001
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Biopic of Jacqueline du Pre and her relationship with her sister.
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Director: Anand Tucker

Writer: Frank Cottrell Boyce

Starring: Emily Watson, Rachel Griffiths, David Morrissy, James Frain, Charles Dance, Celia Imrie, Rupert Penry-Jones, Auriol Evans, Keeley Flanders, Nyree Dawn Porter, Grace Chatto

Year: 1998

Runtime: 121 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: UK

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