“Hilary and Jackie” (1998)


If you think being an ordinary person is any easier than being an extraordinary one, you’re wrong.

This 1998 biopic film received a LOT of praise, BUT I didn’t see it until last week.  This movie is based on the book A Genius in the Family by Hilary and Piers du Pre, siblings of world-famous cellist, Jacquline Du Pre.  It’s directed by Anand Tucker, a desi Brit (or British Asian as they say in England) who also directed Shopgirl and produced Girl with A Pearl Earring.  It’s an intelligent, beautiful, and emotionally moving film centering on the unconditional love between two VERY different sisters.


As very little girls (somtime in the ’50s), dark-haired/serious Hilary (the flautist) and blonde/bubbly Jackie (the cellist) are schooled in dance and music by their ambitious mother in their London home.  At first, Hilary comes out on top, winning a competition to play for the BBC.  When a jealous Jackie causes a commotion during the recording, their mother exclaims: “If you want to be together, you have to be as good as each other!”

Jackie (Brit Emily Watson) eventually surpasses Hilary (Aussie Rachel Griffiths; currently in the ABC drama Brothers and Sisters); she’s deemed a “prodigy,” given private lessons, and gets into the London School of Music.  Hilary attends also, but she is less confidant in her playing and not a star. While still a college girl, Jackie is invited to play at a wedding… in Italy!  Then she gets a tour of her own.

After this introduction of the main girls, we see Hilary’s section of the story.  Hilary struggles to meet the expectations of her teachers, though she still plays private concerts.  The day of an important exam, she is offered a concert by a fellow student, Kiffer (David Morissey), an energetic and optimistic composer.  After her test, Kiffer follows Hilary home.


Jackie, home for vacation, wants to have Hilary all to herself.  Kiffer bursts in the house, excitedly declaring his love for Hilary.  Soon, she and Kiffer are a serious couple, and he’s a part of the family.


Several years go by…  Hilary and Kiffer now have kids and live in an old farmhouse in the country.  They are still deeply in love.  Jackie shows up all of a sudden, QUITE depressed and distraught.  She wants attention and love, dissatisfied with her glamorous life.  Hilary doesn’t know what’s wrong, but wants to help in ANY way she can.


In Jackie’s section of the story, we see things from HER point of view.  We learn about her relationship with husband Daniel (James Frain), a fellow prodigy (on the piano).  Though they have music in common, Jackie is insecure about their relationship.  She sometimes wonders is she’d be loved if she wasn’t a famous, successful musician.


When Jackie seeks refuge with Hilary, she brings a LOT of emotional baggage with her.  Can their relationship withstand Jackie’s demands and volatile personality?  There is more to the story, so go see for yourself.  All the actors are suited for their roles and do work togther SUPERBLY!  This film is a must-see!

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