Plot Details: This opinion reveals everything about the movie's plot.
Recommend this product?
American readers might be forgiven for supposing that HILARY AND JACKIE is about the wives of two philandering Presidents; but no. HILARY AND JACKIE (notice that Hilary is spelled with only one L) is a biopic of the famous du Pre sisters, both musical prodigies whose careers ended painfully early.
Hilary du Pre (brunette Rachel Griffiths) is older than her sister Jacqueline (blonde Emily Watson) by three years (born 1942 and 1945 respectively). Although both were raised with music lessons by their pianist mother (Celia Imrie), Jackie quickly becomes the star at the cello. Hilary takes a bit longer longer to attain slightly more modest prominence with the flute.
Hilary is a quiet, stay-at-home, type, perhaps afflicted with a touch of stage fright. Jackie is portrayed as a sort of wild child, like a Paris Hilton but with brilliance and talent.
Hilary marries 'Kiffer' - Christopher Finzi (David Morrissery), himself a conductor and son of a famous composer, and they settle down on a farm, raising children. From then on, Hilary seldom appears in concert, having given up show biz for family life.
Jackie appears in concerts around the world, is given a Stradivarius cello, meets the young genius conductor Daniel Barenboim (James Frain) and marries him after a whirlwind courtship in 1967. The two then make concert tours together (much of the soundtrack is recordings of Jackie playing in concerts conducted by Barenboim). But after about four years of this pace, Jackie succumbs to what seems to be a sort of nervous breakdown and shows up at Hilary's farm for a long respite -- and, at her insistence, sharing Kiffer.
THE NEXT PARAGRAPH IS A SPOILER: Perhaps it was not entirely psychological. A year later (1973) Jackie's return to the concert stage is spoiled by physical weakness, then spasms and sensory impairments that interfere with her playing, and finally intermittent paralysis. She was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. She never played in public again. The last half-hour of the movie shows her deterioration (which was uncommonly long) in painful vignettes. She first suffered most from being unable to produce music but her misery didn't stop with that. Ultimately, she is writhing in terrible and incoherent agony but Hilary is able to calm her with soothing reminders of their idyllic childhood. Jacqueline du Pre was finally released by death at the age of 42 in October 1987. She bequeathed one her Stradivarius cellos to Yo-Yo Ma, and more than two dozen recordings to the rest of us.
This movie is based on the book, A Genius in the Family, written by Hilary and her brother Piers. The book, and the movie, were savaged by close friends and students of Jackie, who remember a warm and dedicated artist, rather than the darker side seen, and reported, by her siblings. All I can say is that family members know a side of a person that friends and fellow professionals might never see, and vice versa.
This movie is incredibly good and got Oscar nominations for its two stars, a flock of nominations for other awards and even won a handful. The photography - which include some special effects to simulate the illness - is superb. Nothing but praise for the acting, the scenery, the direction, and, of course, the soundtrack.
But the technical excellence of the film aside, the real impact is the true story (somewhat dramatized) of two sisters, both blessed and burdened with genius, competitive yet compassionate, and how they, separately and together, face life's tribulations. The movie is two hours long, and rated R, for some rough language and (brief) sexual themes, so leave the kids at home.
Viewing Format: DVD
Video Occasion: Fit for Friday Evening
Suitability For Children: Not suitable for Children of any age