Anand Tucker presents a thoughtful interpretation of the life of celebrated cellist, Jacqueline du Pre in his debut feature, Hilary and Jackie. Drawing upon the memoirs of surviving siblings Hilary and Piers du Pre, Tucker offers his own take on Jacqueline du Pre's life which appears at once as an honest, uncompromising, yet moving story of Jacqueline's struggle to align her private and public lives. The driving force of the film is Jacqueline's genius, though this is presented not so much as a gift, but as a destructive obsession.It is a young Jackie's jealousy - so apparent in the early scenes of the film where she plays second fiddle (literally) to her older talented sister Hilary - that provides the impetus for Jackie's determination to escape her sister's shadow. Jackie practices every waking hour at her instrument, even playing through the finger patterns on an imaginary cello whenever she is away from it. As a result, she finds recognition, and eventually, stardom, and the two sisters (by this stage represented by the main stars Rachael Griffiths (Hilary) and Emily Watson (Jackie)) drift apart.
One day Jackie turns up unannounced at Hilary's farm, and settles in to live with her sister and brother-in-law. The stress of touring and performing has taken its toll, and Jackie has become noticeably wilder, eccentric, and more demanding, and ends up badgering Hilary to let her sleep with her husband, Kiffer.
Hilary is shocked, but such is her love and concern for her sister, she acquiesces, mindful that Jackie is close to the edge. It is this psychological angle taken by Tucker that ties the film together. Tucker seems to be suggesting that Jackie's genius is not simply something that she was born with, but is the result of an unresolved childhood wish to succeed in spite of her sister.
But before lunging for the cheap easy points to be scored from a neat psychological explanation, Tucker divides the film into two parts, mirroring the subjective interpretation of each sister. It's almost as though Jackie is given a right of reply, and there are subtle (but telling) differences in dialogue in repeated scenes that emphasise the subjective interpretations of the two sisters.Watson's study of her character is full of warmth with a comic edge, while Griffiths' performance reveals an elegance not previously seen in her other roles (and she well deserves that Oscar nomination). And oh yes, there's lots of good classical music all the way through for you music buffs. ---Lachlan Gilbert