It earned Oscar nods, yet this cinematic look at a genius--that of English cellist Jacqueline du Pré, who enraptured audiences with her bold, emblazoned, and wholly unconventional playing style, and who died at age 42-... more »-was criticized for its "lapses" in truth by people who purportedly knew du Pré. Some of the controversy revolved around the other main character in Anand Tucker's gorgeous, involving movie--du Pré's sister, Hilary, whose book, A Genius in the Family (cowritten with brother Piers), dished some dirt on Jackie's sleeping with Hilary's husband. But don't let that deter you from this ebullient movie experience. The film is a bisected story (each sister's tale is told in the same amount of screen time) teeming with heartfelt drama that belies the cheap shots it received from its detractors. It's stirring, reckless, loving, involving, and rife with unconventional passion; passion for music, life, art, and the delicate relationship between these two synchronous, extraordinary sisters as played by brilliant actors Emily Watson and Rachel Griffiths (both of whom earned Oscar nods). Though Watson got the juicy, showy role as Jackie, it's Griffiths who provides the heart, soul, and spine of the film. And director Tucker has that gift of being able to explain through the visual medium what is happening inside of his character's heads. He's helped by a fine screenplay by Frank Boyce Cottrell. No matter what the truth of Hilary and Jackie might really be, this is an exceptional, rare film that is defined and graced by fine acting and writing. --Paula Nechak« less
This film is a historical farce and should not be associated
A Reader | 09/17/2006
(1 out of 5 stars)
"There is a certain school of thought which holds that biopics have no obligations to historical accuracy -- that this is the exclusive province of documentaries or books. I happen to disagree. There are plenty of documentaries that "dramatize" real-life events in the form of dialogue, and many Hollywood films (e.g. _Pollock_, or _My Left Foot_) which were made with concern for accuracy and respect for the memories of specific historical events or characters. If a movie uses real-life names, locations, etc, then misinformation would be malicious that infect the perceptions of mass audiences who see (and for the most part believe) them. A movie that denies the Holocaust or tramples over the memories of war veterans cannot be said to be ideologically unmotivated, but still more callous is such misinformation that is made for purely monetary reasons.
_Hilary and Jackie_, a film dramatization of the life of English cello prodigy Jacqueline du Pré, is one of these. It presents a very heterodox portrayal of Jacqueline's overall character, and has been denounced by her friends and colleagues who knew her throghout her life (Barenboim, Rostropovich, et al) as a complete distortion of the Jacqueline they knew. For e.g., she is remembered by her students and colleagues as being emotionally vibrant with an impassioned love of her craft, while in the film she is portrayed as an insufferable bunch of neuroses who despised her cello -- it having a negative influence on her self-esteem. She is depicted making an indulgent demand to have a sexual relationship with Finzi, her brother-in-law. Her sister Hilary (the apparent heroine of the story), ever selfless, obliges for the benefit of her apparently disturbed sister. The movie ends with Hilary at Jackie's side during her death throes even though (it is made clear) Jackie never did anything for Hilary in her life. If you take the movie's account, it was clearly more than Jackie deserved.
The account here generally follows "A Genius in the Family", the controversial memoir written by Jacqueline's siblings. But her siblings would be less reliable on most points than her colleagues who spent a larger amount of time with her (e.g. at her death when she chose to surround herself with her friends instead, contra the events in this film). That is to say nothing of the fact that the two sisters weren't on speaking terms for much of their life (though Hilary claims there was a reconciliation before Jacqueline's death). Clare Finzi, Hilary's daughter, wrote and contested the film account of events as a "gross misinterpretation, which I cannot let go unchallenged." She was referring to the actual events between her father and aunt, but the errors of omission are even significant, and at the same time worse. The film depicts Jacqueline as being unsympathetic, ignoring the aspects of her personality that made so many sympathize with her. Nothing here reminds one of the flamboyant cellist that is extensively recorded in Nupen's excellent documentaries _Remembering Jacqueline du Prée_ and _Jacqueline du Pré in Portrait_.
More importantly, the film is guilty of irresponsible revisionism. Biopics don't have to be historically accurate to the letter, just the general spirit of the characters. But as so little is substantiated about the specific events of Jacqueline du Pré's personal life as presented here, this is probably a movie that wasn't supposed to be made in the first place. W. K. Clifford famously said that if we cannot ascertain the grounds for a belief, we have no business in believing it. I would add that we have even less business in popularizing heterodox theses to a mass audience without compelling evidence -- something this film lacks. The director Anand Tucker admitted to not caring about such accuracy; he claimed that "it [truth] doesn't exist" because of alternate viewpoints. (One wonders what he would have made of Holocaust denial.) The action of popularizing an extremely tendentious and dubious memoir of Jacqueline's life to audiences who are mostly unfamiliar with her is a unprovoked act of slander -- a base and callous smear against her memory.
The above point is something missed by the critics who defend _Hilary and Jackie_ as portraying "another side" to Jacqueline's personality or offering a corrective to "official" documentaries or biographies. To the majority who watch the movie unreflectingly, there is only one "side" shown. That gets me back to the core of what I dislike about this film: its historical irresponsibility. Jacqueline du Pré obviously achieved much and suffered much in her life, and whether you agree with this film or not, it isn't a constructive tribute to her life's work as an artist and teacher. Integrity demands us to treat unsupported claims with caution, not proselytize them to an unwary audience. Jacqueline du Pré was a great cellist who contributed much to the art was well liked by her colleagues and acquaintances. Her pedagogical legacy survives in the generation of cellists who studied under her tutelage. If she is to be remembered, it should be for that and not the dubious details of her sex life as "played out" and vulgarized in sensationalist media.
One would do better to peruse the biographies of Jacqueline du Pré by Carol Easton, Elizabeth Wilson and, yes, the du Pré siblings (if you read between the lines). Or better yet, listen to her music and watch the documentaries of her which contain clips of her life and performances. The latter were directed by Christopher Nupen who, unlike Tucker, actually knew and cared about his subject matter. For if even a fraction of the money the BBC and the Arts Council gave to _Hilary and Jackie_ were diverted to Nupen's program (which they, instead, rejected), great gains would have been made; gains to music, as well as to our conscience."
The movie is NOT the book !
bookloversfriend | United States | 02/26/2006
(3 out of 5 stars)
"I am amazed when I read people condemning various things based on this movie. Some condemn Hilary. Some (like the Amazon reviewer) condemn the book itself--obviously without having first taken the trouble to read the book. Some condemn what went on sexually.
To set the record straight (from the book and from another biography of Jackie):
The book does not "dish dirt" on Jackie. Quite the contrary.
There is not the slightest hint that the grown-up Hilary was jealous of Jackie (though she was briefly as a child). Both she and Jackie saw the many disadvantages of Jackie's fame. Hilary expresses relief that it is not her life. Jackie expresses envy of Hilary's happy life. She hated being pushed into concert tours by her ambitious husband, Barenboim. She often simply rebelled and left.
Hilary did not "give permission" for her husband to sleep with Jackie. Jackie was terribly upset and ran away across the fields. She asked Kiffer to have sex with her and he did because she thought it would help her. Kiffer told Hilary about it as soon as they returned. (What is covered up by the clumsy, "arty" anti-chronological approach of this movie is that Jackie had ALREADY noticed that her hands were sometimes numb! Imagine the effect that must have had on a cellist!)
The nonsense in the movie about Jackie losing her mind is garbage made up by the screenwriter. AT NO TIME did Jackie think that she was crazy. The idiot psychoanalyst that Hilary and Kiffer finally referred her to when they saw that the sex wasn't really helping Jackie thought that Jackie's numbness was hysterical (all in her mind). Jackie NEVER believed that. And no one in real life thought that she had any other psychopathological symptoms.
The bits about Jackie's abusing her cello are also garbage made up by the screenwriter. She loved her Strad. She never left it out in the cold. She was a vigorous performer and the Strad sometimes collapsed under her playing and had to go to the shop, but that was not deliberate abuse.
The insults in the movie--viz. Jackie telling Hilary that she was not special--are also totally made up by the screenwriter.
The drum incident at the BBC. Jackie was not allowed to play a real instrument because the BBC had a minimum age requirement for performers and Jackie was too young. Jackie was never jealous of Hilary's playing. Jackie practiced because she loved to play.
The portrayal of the flute teacher at the Royal Academy of Music was accurate. Moreover, Hilary's daughter Claire took up the cello, won the Suggia Prize at 11, the same age as Jackie, and went to the R. A. M. After one year, she quit the cello and never played again! I hope somebody in England is looking into the Royal Academy of Music and their ability to drive away talented musicians.
Well, enough. Read the book if you want to know what happened. Don't condemn Hilary or condemn Jackie because of what is in this movie. Condemn the movie. They had the facts. Why did they make these deliberate distortions?
I've also read that Barenboim condemned this film as untrue. Well he might, considering what the movie reveals about him. But wait! Read the other biography, the one commissioned by Barenboim himself, and the facts get even worse: Before Barenboim accepted the conductorship of the Orchestre de Paris and moved to Paris (leaving Jackie to cope with her illness as best she could), he had been offered the London Symphony Orchestra and turned it down! His leaving was therefore not a job necessity (as the movie implies)! And both biographies agree with the film in revealing that Barenboim did shack up with another woman in Paris and proceed to have two kids (while Jackie struggled on alone in London with her crippling illness).
Yes, buy the recordings! Yes, buy the two documentary films and see the real Jackie. Emily Watson gave a good performance, she was just not right for the part. She does not have the face, the strength of character, the commanding presence that the real Jackie had.
And if you haven't seen this movie, see it. Just take it with a grain--with a couple of spoonfuls--of salt.
Footnote: the "widescreen" is achieved by blocking out the top and bottom of the scene. It is no wider than the standard. You merely lose the sky (or whatever) and the foreground. "
Haunting true story and wonderful characterizations
Linda Linguvic | New York City | 05/22/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This 1998 film stars Emily Watson as Jacqueline and Rachael Griffiths as Hilary, the two musically talented real-life English Du Pre sisters. Jackie became world renowned for her cello playing but was deeply troubled and worn out by the constant touring. Hilary, who was trained to play the flute, married early and lived an idyllic life with her husband and children. The bond between the sisters was great, so deep in fact, that an emotionally disturbed Jackie even went so far as to ask her sister an unusual favor. Based on a memoir by Hillary Du Pre and her brother Piers, the screenplay was written by Frank Cottrell Boyce, who managed to bring out both the deep love as well as sibling rivalry between the sisters. David Morrissey and James Frain play their two husbands. Both do fine jobs in their supporting roles. There are three sections to the film, which starts off during the sisters' childhood. Later, after Jackie becomes successful, we see the story from Hilary's point of view. Then, the same incidents are shown from Jackie's viewpoint. From these unique perspectives, our understanding is deepened as the tale grows darker and more complex.. Of course there are also the concert performances, which music lovers will no doubt enjoy, but the music never gets in the way of the haunting story or the wonderful characterizations by the cast. It is not always comfortable to probe human nature so deeply, but it is always fascinating. And "Hilary and Jackie" is a superbly fascinating film."
Good film, but read the book too (spoiler alert)
bookloversfriend | 02/06/2000
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Although "Hilary and Jackie" is an interesting film in and of itself, I can understand why many people in the music industry who knew Jacqueline du Pre--even Hilary's own daughter Claire--denounced the film as a highly inaccurate picture of this world-famous cellist. The movie is said to be based on Hilary and her brother Piers' memoir, "A Genius in the Family," but those who read the book will notice crucial differences in the timing and interpretation of certain events. I don't know if Hilary advised on or approved of the final product, but the filmmakers have made numerous changes, apparently to exaggerate the supposed rivalry between the sisters. The early scene, for example, in which Jacqueline's mother tells her after an unsuccessful concert that if she wants to play with Hilary, she must play as well as Hilary. This admonition supposedly sets Jacqueline off in maniacal practicing, but Hilary's memoir makes it clear that Jackie practiced the cello diligently, and that her phenomenal talent was obvious, from day one. Later, Jacqueline's on-screen family is shocked when she sends her laundry home from Vienna (what are we, servants?), yet the book treats it as nothing callous, merely a way to stay in touch (notes and presents also went back and forth in the laundry). Nor does the book mention the sisters' alleged late-night conversation--"you're not special", etc.--or present Jacqueline's husband as so shallow and self-centered. Emily Watson and Rachel Griffiths both deserved their nominations, but I'd recommend reading the book, too, just to give both sisters a fair shake."
Outstandingly good film
Linda Linguvic | 10/13/1999
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I think this is a really great film with fantastic performances! The story is captivating (although I understand and partly share the worries of viewers and readers as to whether it is too soon for such a film to be released) and not only were the two leading actresses brilliant but every single other actor, too. I found it an excellent idea to present the story (and even in some cases the same scene) from two different points of view, because only then you yourself can choose how to feel towards people or situations rather than having the director or the sciptwritter making that choice for you. Emily Watson imitated Jacqueline Du Pres better than I had ever thought possible! Before I saw the film I had read reviewers arguing whether Watson's or Griffith's performance was better, but I could really not make that comparison: they were both brillinat! My only objection for the film I am definitely going to see again is that there are some small yet important differences compared with the book in an attempt to justify things and paint a nicer portrait of Jackie. Much though I like and admire Jacqueline Du Pres' music, I, on the whole, prefer things to be as close to the original as possible."