1 item from 1991
With Julia Roberts once again legging out her talents as a wrong-side-of-the-tracks gal with a heart of gold -- not to mention the short red skirt and tattoo -- her legions of pink-collar fans are likely to turn out in droves, initially, but the movie's graphic, albeit poignant, portrait of the ravages of leukemia is likely to chill the enthusiasms of those who crave ''Cinderella'' trappings and endings.
Menfolk, while perhaps saving their tender sensibilities for the upcoming Arnold Schwarzenegger opus, may also turn out in solid numbers, especially those who: a) are in hot water with their significant others and need the brownie points and b) those who wish to feign sensitivity for post-screening rewards.
Melodrama straight from the Harlequin novels or the airport rack -- she's poor, he's rich, the parents don't approve -- ''Dying Young'' is, undeniably, the slushiest slice of generic life, but this Joel Schumacher movie has many commendable qualities, including a gentleness and spunkiness that's likely to win, at least, even grunts of respect from the most elitist cynic. It features Roberts' best performance since ''Mystic Pizza'' and a credible and touching turn by Campbell Scott as the stricken, 28-year-old leukemia victim with everything to live for.
Still, you don't have to run complex tests on Richard Friedenberg's nicely delicate screenplay to sense the blood count is decidedly off in this weepie's romantic vein: While it's an everyday fact that men often fall in love with their nurses and vice versa, the love match between street-smart Hilary (how many underclass girls are named Hilary?) and book-brainy Victor doesn't ring true beyond the initial patient-nurse infatuation.
Despite several gushy, Hallmark card-ish montage sequences to the contrary -- romps along the Northern California coast, candlelit dinners (seemingly to show off a duded-to-the-nines Roberts), the romance is never completely convincing. Although there are several touching scenes of personal growth as Hilary tends to the torturously ill Victor, ''Dying's'' most vital romantic sparks are between Roberts and a handyman (Vincent D'Onofrio) who share backgrounds, enthusiasms and laughter.
Ultimately, this subplot, seemingly included as a test of temptation to demonstrate Hilary's undying devotion to Victor, backfires -- Roberts' audience, in their heart of hearts, will wish for, oh my god, that she dumps the sometimes-pompous sick guy and goes for the simple, sweet carpenter.
Swathed in the dark, luminously golden hues Schumacher has typically favored (''St. Elmo's Fire, '' ''Flatliners''), ''Dying Young'' is boosted by splendid technical textures. Unfortunately, the film's most essential technical infusion is inadequate: James Newton Howard's pluckingly gentle but altogether nondescript musical score never pumps our hearts with the sad, rapturous rushes of emotion one craves to sedate and transcend the brain's resistance.
20th Century Fox
A Fogwood Films Production
A Joel Schumacher Film
Producers Sally Field, Kevin McCormick
Director Joel Schumacher
Screenwriter Richard Friedenberg
Based upon the novel by Marti Leimbach
Co-producer Duncan Henderson
Director of photography Juan Ruiz
Art director Guy J. Comtois
Editor Robert Brown
Costume designerSusan Becker
MusicJames Newton Howard
Casting Mary Goldberg
Associate producer Mauri Gayton
Hilary O'Neil Julia Roberts
Victor Geddes Campbell Scott
Estelle Whittier Colleen Dewhurst
Richard Geddes David Selby
Mrs. O'Neil Ellen Burstyn
Cappy Dion Anderson
Malachi George Martin
Running time -- 105 minutes
MPAA Rating: R
(c) The Hollywood Reporter
1 item from 1991
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