Dying Young (1991)
User ReviewsReview this title
(I'm not sure what a 'spoiler' might be with a title like 'Dying Young' - so, if you don't wish to know what the movie is about . . . skip this comment!)
I've survived five different cancers since 1959. I've watched many others die from cancer, mostly because I've been treated in Veterans Hospitals since 1961 which had 'open cancer wards' of forty to sixty beds and we see all there is to see in each other's lives. I've seen this movie in real life, mine and many others' lives and families.
You will be utterly absorbed by the consummate, intricate writing of Richard Freidenberg's adaptation of the Marti Leimbach novel and the 'invisible' direction - my finest compliment - done by Joel Schumacher.
Throughout the film you'll be absorbed by the character's lives. How utterly real their pain, how complete their anguish, how deep their fear,how intense their love: both of the cancer victim Victor Geddes (Campbell Scott) and the loved ones - especially the caretaker becoming lover, Hiliary O'Neil (Julia Roberts).
If the Victor Geddes character had AIDS or Parkinson or Alzheimer's Disease? The audience and reviews would be thunderous applause; nines and tens. But: about cancer? The audience is frightened to give acclaim to cancer, the shadow disease.
The predictable audience reaction to a cancer victim story is amazing: Viewers fear contagion! In real life - friends, relatives, loved ones are frightened to death to visit a person with cancer; to 'touch' them?, to breath their air?, to be nearby?. That fear is brought to the theater, to the television and to the VCR. Fear is the Bitch Goddess of Cancer and was ever present in 'Dying Yong'!
I've never seen Julia Roberts (with whom I've been stuck since 'Pretty Woman") 'disappear into a role' as she did portraying the woman in love with a man dying with cancer. (I didn't see it in 'Erin Brockavich', at least not by comparison). Campbell Scott, playing the cancer sick Vic Geddes, is likewise consumed by the character and is invisible as an actor. There is not an actor before the camera throughout the film . . . just people about whom you Give-A-Damn; about people, not actors.
This is an amazing film.
Some might think I am biased because of my having had cancer: Perhaps. But, to see the gut wrenching under current, words which are never said, emotions programmatically withheld, denial and lies issued and ignored even though instantly recognized until there is a no longer any ability to do so was (is) the most profound treatment of catastrophic illness I've ever seen on film. I kept wanting to yell at each character to speak up, shout, get it out, say something!
(I wonder if those who have not had cancer had that same reaction.)
I hope that those who see this film will see the magnificence of its incredible love story (in spite of illness!) and feel its adroit kick in the shin rendered against the 'silence and lies' between those about whom you care when ill. This story is about love, about life, not about death.
If ever an actor deserved to be awarded an Oscar it was Julia Roberts' portrayal of a woman in love with a man dying with cancer in 'Dying Young.'
See this film: It is an incredible love story! You'll feel happy for all the characters, and, yourself.
The movie chronicles the story of a young woman, Hilary, who, following a recent betrayal by her boyfriend, takes a job as a private caregiver to a rather difficult young man, Victor, suffering from terminal blood cancer. It dramatically depicts Victor's struggles with chemotherapy (the scenes most memorable to me), and Hilary's assistance, with its ever increasing emotional involvement.
Julia Roberts brings her typical endearing qualities to the role of his nurse, who risks a broken heart by falling for a young man who is most certainly going to die soon. I've never seen Roberts in a role for which she didn't elicit viewer sympathy. Campbell Scott, son of actor George C. Scott, is also convincing as the young leukemia sufferer. My major complaint is Victor's lack of supportive family relationships (as I recall) or apparent faith. The movie could have been more meaningful if he'd had these, yet in addition, loved and needed Hilary. This scenario is dramatic, but it is unfortunate and simplistic that she is portrayed as his sole reason for living.
Get out the Kleenex, folks, for the entire movie. I liked the ambiguous ending that left the viewer able to cling to the remote prospect that Victor might miraculously survive. Its message of course is the devoted loyalty until death that Hilary offers. Some viewers have mentioned an alternate suicide ending; that would have definitely ruined the film for me.
Campbell Scott was great as the young man dying of leukemia and gave a riveting performance as a young man who had never been able to fully live his life and groping for what he considers his last chance of happiness before dying.
Campbell Scott also has the courage to be unlikeable and at times arrogant rather than a plaster saint. His inability to connect and understand the simple friendship offered by Gordon(Vincent D'Onofrio) is almost painful to watch. He envies Gordon's easy openness and zest, and is also jealous of the way that Gordon effortlessly connects to JUlia Roberts character,Hilary.
The most poignant scene is when this young man of wealth, privilege, and education tries to relate with Gordon and Hilary who are getting a kick out of answering the questions to Jeopardy. He scores big on the questions that he studied in college, but grows more and more frustrated as Hilary and Gordon bond over their ordinary knowledge of TV shows-- like their singing the theme to Gilligan's Island. They are having fun, but Vincent can only see it as a competition.
In that moment he sees a world that he has never known and probably will never really get, and he lashes out at both of them. Gordon is hurt and puzzled and Hilary is torn between anger and understanding.
I wish that they had had Julia telling Gordon about how the character of Vincent was struggling with cancer, and having all three of them interact with each other bringing more depth to their struggles-- Vincent's jealousy of watching Hilary and Gordon interacting, and Gordon reaching out in friendship to help his new friend. It also would have given Hilary more insight into her emotions, and, when she made a choice it would have had more meaning.
Hilary O'Neil is hired as a nurse when Victor Geddes' father goes away on business. Eventually, Hilary becomes more than his nurse, she becomes, in my opinion; His reason for living. This movie is a powerful and moving story of one man's need for love and a woman's need simply for a job.
Definitely one to watch!
However, with the change of scenery comes a change of momentum. This is not surprising considering how emotional the opening third of the movie is--I'm not sure any movie could sustain that degree of intensity for the length of a feature film. Sadly though, the couple's time in the beach house becomes, as one critic put it, a kind of music video which features long shots of "endearing" moments between the two main characters. I would have liked to see more *real* discussions, interactions, etc. between the two than the endless close-ups of their pretty faces. The townsfolk are superfluous--essentially they're stock characters, cut-outs of real people that serve no real purpose in the film. Vincent D'Onofrio's Gordon is the most confusing character of all. He seems to have some sort of flirtation with Hillary, but this is never developed, explained, or resolved. A shame, as it could have added more drama to a section of the film that was sorely lacking in any sort of dramatic effect.
The ending of the movie isn't bad, but it never quite recovers the momentum of the earlier section. However, I find that no matter how much I dislike the middle part of the film, I keep thinking about the film as a whole, and really really liking it. If you're prone to it, this film will probably make you cry. If you're not interested in tears, it's still worth watching because at the very least it will make you appreciate how lucky you are to not be going through what Vincent goes through--not having to make the decisions or sacrifices he makes each day.
I recommend watching it at least once and forming your own opinion.
And Campbell Scott - what an actor, who has never made it "big", but perhaps he doesn't want to. My favorite comment I ever read about him is this: with George C. Scott and Colleen Dewhurst as his parents, this guy could run the Kentucky Derby and win.
Julia Roberts, way before Erin Brockovich, shows compassion and a resilience to helping Vincent. Of course we know that she will eventually fall in love with him, as he does with her.
I like that the movie ends in a "grey" area. We are left to wonder if Vincent makes it and if Hilary stays with him. Truly a well-made film that deserved more notice.
I enjoyed Campbell Scott's performance. If anyone reading this happens to like him, I recommend Singles and the more recent Roger Dodger. Julia Roberts is good as usual, and looks really young and beautiful too.
So, I guess it works on other levels, at least for me. Anyway, check it out.
Julia Roberts returns to good form in her role of an untrained aide for the terminally ill Campbell Scott, who gives a fine and most convincing performance. The plot is predictable, yes, but it remains a very well balanced drama throughout, a credit to the film's director Joel Schumacher.
Perhaps only a must see for sentimentalists and Roberts fans, "Dying Young" turns out to be quite a good film.
Saturday, April 4, 1992 - Video
While Roberts was still in her early stages. Often cast as quirky, offbeat characters, after the success of "Pretty Woman". She adds depth to the character of Hillary, a visiting nurse who ends up falling for her patient; well-portrayed by Campbell Scott.
Roberts manages to be touching, and also comedic, without using cheap old standby tactics to make the audience like her- (When I think of this, I am thinking of Goldie Hawn, same quirky smile; or Jennifer Aniston-same gestures again and again to the point where it is formulaic and unbelievable.And the audience realizes they are being manipulated.) Roberts is the sympathetic character, Scott the arrogant well-to-do patient, embittered and dying of cancer.
There is also a small cameo role with Colleen Dewhurst, and the ending is not trite and predictable. There are some beautiful scenes of the Northern California coastline. You will enjoy this film. 9/10.
She however stayed out of compassion and although Victor being rich and an only child of a successful, widower lawyer, who often times was obnoxious, Hilary slowly found out there is sweetness in him. (Campbell Scott was at his best as Victor).
Victor who was eager to experience life again, away from hospital treatments, deceived Hilary that he completed his treatment, so she would go with him for what he called vacation. They drove north to Mendocino, spent time alone together and fell in love. (If you are a woman, you will fall in love with Campbell; and if you are man, you would like to be taken cared of by Julia after watching these scenes)
But without his regular chemotherapy treatment, he felt sick again after several weeks, but hid it from Hilary. Victor was competing with a local carpenter they met at a bar, Gordon, for Hilary's attention, worried that she will want Gordon instead because Gordon and Hilary have much in common. (Kudos to Director Joel Schumaker, for the subtle introduction of an "almost love triangle")
Hilary found out Victor was sick again and felt that Victor planned ending his life, instead of going back to hospital treatment. Victor didn't want to go back to a life he had for the last ten years, he wanted Hilary to stay with him until he passed. Angry and scared, Hilary left, called Victor's father, knowing he was the only one who can convince Victor to go back to treatment. So she thought. (I haven't seen Julia acted as passionately again in her other movies, as she was in this movie)
For the last time, they attended a Christmas party by a local vineyard owner who befriended them during their so called vacation. When Hilary arrived at the party with Gordon, Victor was jealous. He was determined not to go back to the hospital again, left unannounced and prepared to leave and hide again. But Hilary knew him very well by then, he followed him back to the house and begged him to stay with her and get well. It was obvious they have fallen truly in love with each other, and determined to stay together again, hopeful, they left Mendocino to face the future whatever it might be. (This part of the movie was the best I've seen)
The ending scene was inspiring, it touched your soul. It could have not ended any other way. After watching this movie in 1991, and many times again and again in the last twenty years, my mind hasn't changed - Julia Roberts and Campbell Scott have been my favorite actors the last two decades, and Dying Young my favorite movie of all times. To my regret, Hollywood don't make movies like this anymore. Thanks a lot to Sally Field.
To be fair, Schumacher has made some good films - "Falling Down" is great fun by any standards - but his bad far outweighs the few good projects he's worked on. His influence on a film is instantly recognizable.
"Dying Young" is one of Schumacher's sappy flicks, about a woman (Julia Roberts) who decides to nurse a dying man (Campbell Scott) who has blood cancer. Typical story - hatred for each other at first followed shortly by a deep romance, which ends in...well...I guess I shouldn't ruin it.
The movie is hokey and artificial - it struck me as one of those Hallmark Channel specials you would see on daytime television. If not for the cast it could easily be found in such a slot.
It's a curiosity simply because Schumacher fans - as in, the kind that love to hate him - may find it interesting to see him attempt a romantic weeper.
The actors are all first-class, and there are also many beautiful exteriors and interiors, party scenes, nature scenery etc.. The only thing I disliked a little, was the "My Fair Lady"-concept. I mean: the rich and well-educated man, who teaches the simple but brazen working- class girl about art-history etc. - while she teaches him about life. And then, of course, they fall in love. That felt dated, and also for 1991 - it would have been more expected in a movie from 1941...
But all in all, I find the movie well-worth watching!