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Hilary and Jackie

Starring Emily Watson, Rachel Griffiths, David Morrissey and James Frain
Screenplay by Frank Cottrell Boyce
Based on a book by Hilary and Piers du Pré
Directed by Anand Tucker
Website: http://www.octoberfilms.com

IN SHORT: Film students only. (Running Time 121 minutes, Rated R)

You know it's Oscar wannabe times when all the really good actresses start dying on screen. Streep gets cancer. Sarandon gets cancer. Helena Bonham Carter gets ALS and Emily Watson keels over from a disease never mentioned at all in Hilary and Jackie, a total mess of a flick that is based on the life story of cellist Jacqueline du Pré. The problem is major. Hilary and Jackie makes the erroneous assumption that you know the basics of what happened. Therefore it doesn't have to tell you that the culprit is Multiple Sclerosis. If you're ignorant of the world of classical music, you're dead in the water.

Resetting a theme of A Star Is Born in the context of two sisters, Hilary and Jackie had the potential of being a good tale of family relationships as they grow and crumble. We first meet the du Pré sisters as little girls. Hilary is an award winning flutist. Jackie is barely making do on the cello. Their mother, a conductor, encourages them and you see a tale of one sister working her butt off to achieve what the other has, the adoration of a parent. Good start.

As adults in the swinging 60s the talent flip flops. Hilary (Rachel Griffiths) is on a definite downswing as a flutist, though she has caught the eye of a happily pushy conductor (David Morrissey) who is dumbstruck with love at first sight. Jackie (Watson), who has toured the world by this time, has discovered the newfound wonders of birth control, and sees no need to settle down, though she does, also with a conductor. That's he's a) not English and b) not of the King's religion sets up a lovely little joke more than appreciated by this Member of the Tribe.

It's the relationship of the sisters that is supposed to be important here. We see the story told, first from Hilary's eyes and then from Jackie's, in the old Rashomon manner. But from this point of view, nothing ever sparks onscreen. Not being a girl with a sister, I don't have the personal knowledge to flesh out the relationship that sets up on screen. Again, the film assumes you have this kind of understanding. If you don't know the story going in, or have limited knowledge of classical music, this flick is deadly, the sole exception being a killer rendition of The Kink's "You Really Got Me" on cello and piano halfway through the flick.

Other reviewers I've talked with (and we all start to compare notes this time of year) have been mentioning Watson's performance for statue. Anything is possible given the dearth of good femme perfs this year, but a good actress can only do so much with a script that fails to make a point, which I think is the problem here. (It's either that, or the old "I'm a guy and just don't get it" line. T'ain't no line. I got very little of it.)

On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Eight Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to Hilary and Jackie,he would have paid...

$2.00

Cranky was totally unaffected and, dare I say it? Bored. Hilary and Jackie would be the equivalent of the still unmade story of Faces' guitarist Ronnie Lane, if all the latter were to tell you was that Lane was a guitarist who got MS (and leave out the part about his mates joining in to help him raise money for treatment, later ripped off by the woman who was helping him.)


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The Cranky Critic® is a Registered Trademark of, and his website is Copyright © 1995  -  2015   by Chuck Schwartz. Articles by Paul Fischer are Copyright © 1999 - 2006 Paul Fischer. All images, unless otherwise noted, are property of,©, ®, their respective studios and are used by permission. All Rights Reserved. Not to be used or copied for any commercial purpose. Academy Award(s) and Oscar®(s) are registered trademarks and service marks of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.