Sister Act

THE JACKIE OF Hilary and Jackie is the great, passionate English cellist Jacqueline du Pre, whose career--and life--was cut short by multiple sclerosis. Knowing only this bare outline, you'd have reason to fear another hagiographic account of a great spirit nobly felled by a movie disease. But what director Anand Tucker has wrought is something far more spiky and complex. Informed by the memoirs of Jackie's sister, Hilary, and brother, Piers, this double portrait of sibling love and sibling rivalry treads a richly ambivalent line between tribute and expose. Emily Watson's turbulent Jackie is both a brave, adventurous talent and a tormented solipsist, whose selfishness flowered in the self-indulgent Zeitgeist of the '60s.

Hilary (played with just the right mixture of adoration and masochism by Rachel Griffiths) was a gifted child musician herself until Jackie eclipsed her glory. Dropping out of the music world, Hilary settles into domestic life with her adoring husband (David Morrissey). But even then she is forced to share when Jackie, fleeing her marriage to the pianist-conductor Daniel Barenboim (James Frain), descends on her country home and begs to share Hilary's husband's bed. Told from both women's points of view, this fascinating, if sometimes overwrought, tale packs a wallop. Watson's bravura performance shows us the agony, the ecstasy and the ruthlessness of genius.

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