Dying Young (1991) starring Julia Roberts, Campbell Scott, Vincent D'Onofrio, Colleen Dewhurst, David Selby, Ellen Burstyn, Dion Anderson directed by Joel Schumacher Movie Review

Dying Young (1991)   3/53/53/53/53/5

Julia Roberts as Hilary O'Neil in Dying Young

Dying for a Little More

Even top actors and actresses can star in some pretty duff movies, and sadly "Dying Young", which also stars Campbell Scott, happens to be one of Julia Roberts. To be honest "Dying Young" is not a bad movie, but when you compare it to so many of Julia Roberts' other movies it just doesn't come up to scratch. The biggest issue is that "Dying Young" is overlong, and very slow going which really mars how good it is.

Having discovered that her boyfriend has been unfaithful Hilary O'Neil (Julia Roberts - Sleeping with the Enemy) decides that she needs a fresh start and a new job. Despite no training she finds work as a private nurse for Victor Geddes (Campbell Scott - Music and Lyrics), a young man who has been battling cancer for many years. As they spend time together, a relationship forms despite that in the knowledge that Victor is dying they can't have a future together.

Campbell Scott as Victor Geddes in Dying Young

The story line to "Dying Young" is very simple and really has only one main thread, that of the romantic relationship which forms between Hilary and Victor. The main focus of this is the fact that each of them comes from different sides of the track. Hilary, although not poor, has worked for everything she has and enjoys the fun side of living, such as clubbing and smoking. Where as Victor has had a very privileged upbringing where money has never been an issue and appreciates the finer things in life, such as fine art and the classics. With this being the main thread of "Dying Young", some people have compared this to Miss Roberts previous hit "Pretty Women", but in reality this is an unfair comparison, due to the nature of "Dying Young" is a much more serious movie rather than simple fun of "Pretty Woman".

There are other minor threads, which revolve around Victor's relationship with his parents, as well as Hilary's relationships with friends from the local community, but in reality these are only included as padding for the main storyline and add little relevance to the main story.

As with any movie which follows the relationships of people from different sides of the track it becomes very predictable and as "Dying Young" progresses you can pretty much guess when the next rise and peak in their relationship will appear. This is not really a criticism as it is very rare to find a movie with this setup following any other route.

My biggest criticism of "Dying Young" is that it never seems to get going. It ambles along on a slow pleasant journey but never really picks up any pace. This is mainly due to a lack of any real depth in any of the threads, whether major or minor. For example, the affects of the chemotherapy on Victor are never really focussed upon for more than a second or two and so the movie never feels like it is truly there.

"Dying Young" focuses on two characters, that of Hilary O'Neil, played by Julia Roberts and Victor Geddes, played by Campbell Scott. Although both of the performances are good, there seems to be something missing. Both Roberts and Scott play the parts very well, and work very well together on screen, but there seems to be a real lack of meaning behind the words and emotions. It honestly feels like at times they were just going through the motions to pick up their pay cheques. Maybe this was due more to the fact that the script never delves deep enough for them to use their talents to play in depth characters, but for whatever reason, it really lets the movie down. It is a sad fact that some of the best parts of the movie revolve around the character of Hilary dancing in a night club in a sequinned bra and the scene where she spreads mayonnaise on her hair as a conditioner.

Other than the lack of a decent script, I believe the majority of this movies problems lie with its direction, which is surprise as "Dying Young" comes from the directional hands of Joel Schumacher who previously directed the fabulous "Flatliners". The biggest issue with the direction is the lack of pace and I personally feel that if this movie had been cut by 20 minutes, the pace of the movie would have been far better, with numerous unnecessary scenes left on the cutting room floor. On top of this is the lack of any real meaning behind the actor's performances, which I blame Schumacher again for as he seems to have given up with them. On a more positive note, some of his choice of shots and the composing of scenes are truly brilliant with great use of natural light and shade to convey the mood of certain scenes.

The soundtrack, although very pleasant is just like the movie, very slow and leisurely. There is a huge use of gentle string and piano pieces to accompany each scene, but it never really changes pace anywhere or even gets louder. The only noticeable time the soundtrack really changed was a scene in a nightclub with some cheesy 90s dance music.

What this all boils down to is that although "Dying Young" is a flawed movie, very typical of the era it was made, I do actually like it. Although it has far too many flaws to be a great movie, it is still an enjoyable one to watch even if it is a bit slow and monotonous. Maybe I am just a glutton for punishment and enjoy Julia Roberts dancing around in a bra, but the movie does have some charm and at times does pull on your heart strings. I am sure if they had cut some of the unnecessary, over long scenes and cut the movie down to around 90 minutes it would have been greatly improved, but sadly they didn't. As one of Julia Roberts's movies I would rate it right down, but at least it did introduce me to the acting skills of Campbell Scott.