In this very well-cast movie, director Anand Tucker presents an intense and riveting drama based on the true lives of two sisters with gifted musical talent. The movie opens with Hilary and Jackie du Pre as children. Hilary, played later by Rachel Griffiths, becomes absorbed with playing the flute, while Jackie, played later by Emily Watson, plays the cello. Their parents praise both girls, who go on to win several honors and trophies. The two siblings are so bonded that they literally can tell what the other is thinking. Tinges of resentment and competitiveness begin to grow, however, along with the love and interdependence they feel toward one another.
The movie then moves from their childhood into adulthood, where Jackie’s musical career takes off. Separated for the first time from her sister, Jackie becomes internationally successful, earning rave reviews traveling all over America and Europe. She eventually meets and marries a famous pianist and conductor named Daniel Barenboim. Meanwhile, Hilary chooses to marry Kiffer Finzey, played by David Morrissey, and lives a simple lifestyle, giving up the flute to raise children.
Fame for Jackie is not all it’s cracked up to be, however. The constant touring is a strain for Jackie, who becomes lonely and desperate and longs for her sister’s simpler life. Jackie then begins to experience some odd physical symptoms, including a drastic change in her behavior. This alarms both Hilary and Kiffer. After being married to her husband for only a short time, Jackie comes running to Hilary and Kiffer with an unbelievable and bold, but immoral, request.
The acting in HILARY AND JACKIE is quite brilliant, and it is probable that Emily Watson as Jackie will get her second Oscar nomination (her first was for the Gnostic movie BREAKING THE WAVES). Rachel Griffiths, known for her role in MURIEL’S WEDDING, also turns in an excellent performance as Hilary.
Director Anand Tucker neatly divides the movie into seeing things from both sister’s perspectives. This technique works well in allowing the audience to see each woman’s sense of reality and the emotional torment that both women experience. Tucker draws a large degree of intensity from both the characters and the story, an amazing feat considering this is his first feature.
The biggest problem with the movie is the insertion of several scenes where Jackie, who is actually suffering from multiple sclerosis and eventually died from the disease, asks her sister to let her sleep with her husband. Although disturbed by her sister’s request, she submits to it, as does her husband. Apparently, this is historically accurate, but the movie focuses too much on it, and this is the main reason for the movie’s R-rating. It was not necessary to focus on the sexual aspect of this story in order to show the turbulence that Jackie and Hilary undergo over Jackie’s regrettable disease.
Humanistic worldview with romantic elements of the title characters' relationships with their husbands & their music; 13 obscenities; no violence; implied sex & implied adultery; no nudity; and, miscellaneous immorality such as sibling rivalry, building to resentment.