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1 item from 1991

Film review - 'Dying Young' By DUANE BYRGE''Dying Young'' is not likely to go into that good boxoffice night as a ''Ghost,'' but rather as a healthy fast-starter that struts its stuff on the screen for a few solid weeks and then gently expires to deserved green pastures.

18 June 1991 | The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News | See recent The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News news »

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

GordonVincent D'Onofrio

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


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1 item from 1991

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