Hilary and Jackie

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Hilary and Jackie
Hilary-and-jackie-poster.jpg
US poster for the film
Directed by Anand Tucker
Produced by Nicolas Kent
Andy Paterson
Screenplay by Frank Cottrell Boyce
Based on A Genius in the Family 
by Hilary and Piers du Pré
Starring Emily Watson
Rachel Griffiths
James Frain
David Morrissey
Music by Barrington Pheloung
Cinematography David Johnson
Editing by Martin Walsh
Distributed by Channel 4 Films (UK)
October Films (US)
Release dates
  • 5 September 1998 (1998-09-05) (Venice)
  • 22 January 1999 (1999-01-22) (United Kingdom)
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Box office $4,912,892 (US)[1]

Hilary and Jackie is a 1998 British supposedly biographical film directed by Anand Tucker. The screenplay by Frank Cottrell Boyce is based on the memoir A Genius in the Family by Piers and Hilary du Pré,[2] which chronicles the life and career of their late sister, cellist Jacqueline du Pré. The film attracted controversy and criticism for allegedly distorting details in Jacqueline's life, although Hilary du Pré publicly defended her version of the story.[3][4]

Plot[edit]

The film is divided into two sections, the first telling events from Hilary's point of view and the second from Jackie's. It opens with Hilary and Jackie as children being taught by their mother to dance and play musical instruments, the cello for Jackie and the flute for Hilary. Jackie does not take practising seriously at first, but when she does, she becomes a virtuoso, quickly rising to international prominence. Marriage to pianist and conductor Daniel Barenboim follows.

Hilary, on the other hand, plays in a community orchestra and marries Christopher Finzi, the son of composer Gerald Finzi. The film, though focused primarily on Jacqueline, is ultimately about the relationship between the two sisters and their dedication to one another; to help Jacqueline through a nervous breakdown and in the interest of therapy, Hilary consents to Jacqueline having an affair with her (Hilary's) husband.

The last quarter of the movie chronicles in detail the last fifteen years of Jacqueline's life: she is diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, loses control of her nervous system, becomes paralysed, goes deaf and mute, and finally dies. The film ends with Jacqueline's spirit standing on the beach where she used to play as a child, watching herself and her sister frolicking in the sand as little girls.

Cast[edit]

Production[edit]

Scenes were filmed in the Blue Coat School, the County Sessions House, George's Dock, St. George's Hall, and the Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool. Additional scenes were filmed at the Royal Academy of Music and Wigmore Hall in London, and most interiors were shot at the Shepperton Studios in Surrey. Brithdir Mawr, an ancient house in North Wales, was used for location shots of Hilary's house.[5]

Classical pieces performed in the film include compositions by Edward Elgar, Joseph Haydn, Johann Sebastian Bach, Johannes Brahms, César Franck, Matthias Georg Monn, Georg Friedrich Händel, Robert Schumann, Ludwig van Beethoven, and Antonín Dvořák. Jacqueline du Pré's cello in the movie was played and synchronised to Emily Watson's movements by Caroline Dale.

Critical reception[edit]

In his review in The New York Times, Stephen Holden called the film "one of the most insightful and wrenching portraits of the joys and tribulations of being a classical musician ever filmed" and "an astoundingly rich and subtle exploration of sibling rivalry and the volcanic collisions of love and resentment, competitiveness and mutual dependence that determine their lives." He went on to say "Hilary and Jackie is as beautifully acted as it is directed, edited and written."[6]

Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times described it as "an extraordinary film [that] makes no attempt to soften the material or make it comforting through the cliches of melodrama."[7]

In the San Francisco Chronicle, Edward Guthmann stated, "Watson is riveting and heartbreaking. Assisted by Tucker's elegant direction and Boyce's thoughtful, scrupulous writing, she gives a knockout performance."[8]

Anthony Lane of The New Yorker said, "The sense of period, of ungainly English pride, is funny and acute, but the movie mislays its sense of wit as the girls grow up. The nub of the tale... feels both overblown and oddly beside the point; it certainly means that Tucker takes his eye, or his ear, off the music. The whole picture, indeed, is more likely to gratify the emotionally prurient than to appease lovers of Beethoven and Elgar."[9]

Entertainment Weekly rated the film A- and added, "This unusual, unabashedly voluptuous biographical drama, a bravura feature debut for British TV director Anand Tucker, soars on two virtuoso performances: by the rightfully celebrated Emily Watson . . . and by the under-celebrated Rachel Griffiths."[10]

Rana Dasgupta wrote in an essay about biographical films that "the film's tagline – 'The true story of two sisters who shared a passion, a madness and a man' – is a good indication of its prurient intent. The book's moving account of love and solidarity, whose characters are incomplete and complex but not "mad", is rejected in favour of a salacious account of social deviance."[11]

Controversy and protests[edit]

Although the film was a critical and box-office success, and received several Academy Award nominations, it ignited a furore, especially in London, centre of du Pre's performing life. A group of her closest colleagues, including fellow cellists Mstislav Rostropovich and Julian Lloyd Webber, sent a "bristling" letter to The Times in February 1999.[12][13][14]

Clare Finzi, Hilary du Pré's daughter, charged that the film was a "gross misinterpretation, which I cannot let go unchallenged." Employees of the film's PR agency masquerading as students from the Royal College of Music picketed the premiere. Daniel Barenboim said, "Couldn't they have waited until I was dead?"[12]

Hilary du Pré wrote in The Guardian, "At first I could not understand why people didn't believe my story because I had set out to tell the whole truth. When you tell someone the truth about your family, you don't expect them to turn around and say that it's bunkum. But I knew that Jackie would have respected what I had done. If I had gone for half-measures, she would have torn it up. She would have wanted the complete story to be told."[3] Jay Fielden reported in The New Yorker that she'd said, "When you love someone, you love the whole of them. Those who are against the film want to look only at the pieces of Jackie's life that they accept. I don’t think the film has taken any liberties at all. Jackie would have absolutely loved it."[14]

Awards and nominations[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Hilary and Jackie (1998)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 21 August 2011. 
  2. ^ Du Pré, Piers; Du Pré, Hilary (1996). A genius in the family : an intimate memoir of Jacqueline du Pré. London: Heinemann. ISBN 0-434-00344-1. 
  3. ^ a b du Pré, Hilary (21 January 1999). "The truth about our wonderful sister Jackie". The Guardian. 
  4. ^ Moss, Stephen (21 January 1999). "Du Pré sister defends film". The Guardian. 
  5. ^ "Loggerheads – Moel Famau". Walking in North Wales. 
  6. ^ Holden, Stephen (30 December 1998). "'Hilary and Jackie': Discordant Concerto, Played Upon Two Hearts". The New York Times. 
  7. ^ Ebert, Roger (15 January 1999). "Hilary and Jackie". The Chicago Sun-Times. 
  8. ^ Guthmann, Edward (15 January 1999). "Commanding Presences: Watson plays it perfectly as tortured cello star in `Hilary and Jackie'". The San Francisco Chronicle. 
  9. ^ Lane, Anthony (25 January 1999). "Hilary and Jackie". The New Yorker. 
  10. ^ "Movie Review: Hilary and Jackie". Entertainment Weekly. 8 January 1999. 
  11. ^ Dasgupta, Rana (21 September 2008). "The next idea of the artist: Art, music and the present threat of creativity".  Essay about Beethoven, du Pre and biographical films.
  12. ^ a b Nordlinger, Jay (22 February 1999). "Music: Twisted Sister – Review". The National Review. Archived from the original on 26 April 2008. 
  13. ^ "Du Pre film blasted by the critics". BBC News. 22 January 1999. 
  14. ^ a b Fielden, Jay (8 February 1999). "The Talk of the Town: The Pictures". The New Yorker.  Subscription required.

External links[edit]