Julia’s hot; Dying Young is lukewarm. In this rather thin and maudlin weeper Julia Roberts does little to extend her range in a performance that seems pieced together from aspects of previous roles.
Campbell Scott (The Sheltering Sky) plays Victor Geddes, an immensely wealthy young man who at 28 has been battling leukemia for 10 years. He places an ad for an attractive young lady to nurse him through the bouts of violent illness that accompany chemotherapy.
Enter Roberts as Hilary O’Neil, who in the interest of dramatic contrast is painted as a badly dressed, uneducated street-smart type from blue-collar Oakland. For the lonely, intellectual Victor, she’s raw material to be shaped in his image – an irresistible draw.
Director Joel Schumacher (Flatliners) apparently doubting an audience will stick around just out of concern for Victor’s illness, turns a rather shabbily exploitative camera on Roberts, whose legs seem to play the lead role in the first act. Much of the time pic operates on the level of a teaser sustained by the dangling question of Victor’s unconsummated desire.
Roberts displays the usual combo of flintily self-sufficient and winningly vulnerable traits. Her portrayal of a working-class character is not exactly chameleon-like. Scott puts in a beguiling and technically polished turn as the desperately lonely sufferer.
Pic [from Marti Leimbach’s novel] plays like a sentiment-soaked escapist fantasy for the bed-and-breakfast set.