Sharon Knolle Freelance Writer

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Published in The Rocket, January 13, 1999


REEL LIFE: Hilary and Jackie

by Sharon Knolle
Hilary and Jackie is very much this year's Shine, a relatively pleasing melange of glorious music, tortured genius, and Oscar-baiting parts. Unfortunately, as with the case with Shine, Hilary and Jackie suffers from that rote predictability that's built into artist's biopics. On the plus side, it's quite easy to cinematically share the glory of a musician's work: It will take only the beautiful melancholy strains of Sir Edward Elgar's cello concerto — played throughout the film — to prime your tear ducts for this tragic tale.

The titular Jackie is the brilliant British cellist Jacqueline du Pre (played by Emily Watson), who was stricken with multiple sclerosis. In her quest for success, she must contend, not with an abusive father á là Shine, but with a beloved sister, Hilary (Rachel Griffiths), who's also a rival. As children, the two are both musically inclined, but Hilary is the prodigy. The sensitive, younger Jackie takes early slights to heart and soon the cello becomes her life. She eventually surpasses her gifted sister and becomes a world-class musician with a whirlwind schedule of touring and performing.

I'm not telling you anything new when I say that Emily Watson is a magnificent actress, but if she's rewarded this year, it will not be for this rather average film, but because she was not properly acknowledged for her stunning debut in Breaking the Waves.

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