DYING YOUNG, adapted from the novel by Marti Leimbach, involves a dying New England aristocrat and the blue-collar woman hired to nurse him. Unfortunately, the film lacks credibility, conflict and persuasive acting.
Despite the overwhelming beauty of the California coastline in DYING YOUNG, the film suffers an excruciating, premature death.
Julia Roberts stars as a working-class woman, Hillary, who takes a job as a companion to a wealthy man, Victor (Campbell Scott), who is dying of leukemia, and falls in love with him. As Victor’s life slips away, Hillary struggles with her feelings toward him.
After Victor’s final chemotherapy session as he retches and curses non-stop, taking God’s Name in vain repeatedly and shaking uncontrollably from chills, Hillary has second thoughts about her job. Then, Victor reassures her, telling her his chemo is finished, and they plan a trip to Mendocino together so he can recuperate.
Settling into a small beach house, the two quickly become better acquainted and begin to have sex together one night when Victor eases his way into her bed on the pretense that he can’t get warm.
Victor, a prospective doctoral candidate in art, shares his doctoral dissertation on German expressionist Gustav Klimt with Hillary. He delights in showing her Klimt’s erotic nude paintings. A leader in the Art Nouveau movement (late 19th century, early 20th), Klimt’s passion for erotic themes led him to develop a painting style that integrated sensuous nude figures with brilliantly colored decorative patterns of richness, Victor informs her.
She, in turn, introduces him to a swinging off-the-beaten-path bar where she performs on stage and demonstrates her ability to “shake, rattle and roll.”
When several months pass and Victor’s hair grows back, the cancer recurs, and Victor takes morphine for the pain but doesn’t let Hillary know. She discovers the ruse, however, and becomes angry because he lied about the chemo being finished, so she runs out on him, not wanting to “watch you die.”
A little later, she realizes her love for him and returns, telling him, “You don’t know when you’re going to die…nobody does.” She adds: “Whether you live or die, I’ll be there.”
Unfortunately, not only does the plot lack real depth, substance and genuine conflict, but the acting is amateurish and insipidly sentimental. Taken together, these add up to an unconvincing film without dramatic interest, apart from star Roberts, America’s current sweetheart.
Worst of all, the main characters’ living together apart from marriage (along with much foul language) provides young people with an ungodly, despicable example. Unfortunately, because of Roberts’ popularity, many will follow in her steps. This currently acceptable carpe diem theme of “All we have is today–if it feels good, do it” belies the clear teaching of the Bible: “There is a way which seemeth right to a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death” (Proverbs 14:12).
(LLL, SSS, N, H, Ab, O) Roughly 50 obscenities & profanities; repeated fornication scenes; some female nudity; humanistic and anti-biblical immoral philosophy; and, reading tea leaves.