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British sisters Hilary du Pré and Jacqueline du Pré are both talented musicians, Hilary a flautist, Jackie a cellist. With regard to their musical prowess, they have always had a friendly competitive nature with each other, fueled in large part by the want of their pianist mother, Iris, for them to achieve musical greatness. But underlying this friendliness is a deep desire to be truly better than the other. Despite or perhaps in part because of her flamboyant performance style, the younger Jackie emerges from the shadows of older Hilary's more triumphant childhood successes to become the renowned musician in the family. Although both continue with their music and both end up marrying (Hilary to Kiffer Finzi, and Jackie to pianist Daniel Barenboim), Hilary focuses on her home life, whereas Jackie focuses on her career. A seemingly odd request by Jackie to Hilary is later understood, but Hilary's agreement to that request demonstrates the true nature of their loving but unusual ... Written by
Films as intelligent and well crafted as this are hard to come by. `Hilary and Jackie' is an exceptionally well done character study of two real life sisters. Jackie (Emily Watson) is a world-class cellist and Hilary (Rachel Griffiths) lives a normal middle class life. The story is rich in character development depicting the sisters starting from their childhood when both were musical prodigies. Now that they are adults, they envy each other's life. The story follows Jackie's career and explores the sisters' relationship, including the deep resentment and enduring love they have for one another. Director Anand Tucker does a wonderful job of presenting the story. He induces great feeling from each scene and lays the raw emotions on the screen without embellishment whether pure or turbulent.
Emily Watson was superb in the lead role. Her's was an extremely complex character and her command of the range of emotions Jackie required was phenomenal. Lovers of classical music will appreciate the rich soundtrack and Watson's realistic cello renditions. Watson was nominated for best actress by the Academy in 1999 for this performance and I felt she was most deserving of the prize that ultimately went to Gwyneth Paltrow for `Shakespeare in Love'. Paltrow's performance was clever and charming, but had nowhere near the power Watson delivered in this film. Emily is such a talented actress, however, that I have little doubt eventually there will be some other envelope with her name inside.
Rachel Griffiths also gave a career performance as Hilary and she was nominated for best supporting actress, an award I felt she won hands down. Griffiths' tortured performance was gut wrenching and inspired. She played Hilary with deep sensitivity and handled her emotional conflicts brilliantly. The Academy's choice of Judy Dench was again perplexing as the Shakespeare juggernaut rolled on.
For those viewers who appreciate a powerful and disturbing drama, great acting, complex characters, terrific classical music and extraordinary character development, this film is a must. I rated it a 9/10. Don't miss it.
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