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Case Number 04023

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Dying Young

Fox // 1991 // 111 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Erin Boland (Retired) // March 6th, 2004

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All Rise...

The Charge

"You want me to tell you 'I love you' and you can say 'Well great, now I'm gonna die and I'm gonna leave.'"
—Hilary O'Neil (Julia Roberts)

Opening Statement

As far as Julia Roberts movies go, this one is rather typical. The acting is respectable and the storyline, while a little unbelievable, is still not terrible.

Facts of the Case

For Hilary O'Neil (Julia Roberts, Pretty Woman), a young woman from Oakland with no money and no education, life changes when she walks in on her boyfriend sleeping with another woman. She finds herself out of love, out of a home, and unemployed. Then life takes an unexpected turn. She answers a want ad "for an attractive young woman with nursing skills" (even though she has none), and finds herself employed by Victor Gaddes (Campbell Scott, The Secret Lives of Dentists), a wealthy young leukemia patient. Victor falls hopelessly in love with Hilary, who strongly resembles the redheaded women in the German Impressionist paintings he studies. Hilary returns his love and her character blossoms throughout the course of the film. Throw in a cottage by the sea, a neighbor who seems much better suited for Hilary then Victor ever could be (and not because of the cancer), and Victor hiding the state of his disease and you pretty much have the whole film outlined.

The Evidence

I'm really not sure what to say about this film. Dying Young seemed like it should have been quite a tearjerker. Yet, I don't think I once felt the need to cry. This is another one of those films that some people really loved, and others were just unattached. Unfortunately, I fall into the later camp. I thought the dialogue was…well…at times, rather cheesy or at the very least unrealistic. The acting was respectable. Campbell Scott was excellent as Victor Gaddes; Julia Roberts was…well…lacking. She just didn't seem very convincing as an uneducated girl from Oakland, and even more of an issue, there were times that I wasn't completely convinced she was in love with Victor and not their neighbor.

Thematically, the film centers on the delicateness of life. At the end of the film, Hilary fights with Victor about the choice he would like to make concerning his cancer. Her argument is that he doesn't know what the future will bring and can't foresee how long either of them will really live. She tells him that because she loves him, she will be there till the end with him (no matter what the end might be) as long as he chooses to take the noble road and fight.

The quality of the film is as good as can be expected from any DVD from the early '90s. There was little to no grain in the color and the flesh tones lacked any unpleasant undertones. The sound quality again was good. The soundtrack won't give any home theater system a workout but it was appropriate for the film. It mostly consisted of jazzy adult contemporary: a lot of Kenny G and some traditional jazz pieces too. The DVD was extremely lacking in the way of extras, including only two studio trailers and a short three-minute featurette. I really don't remember whether or not there was a point to the featurette other then to get another look at Julia Roberts running around in a short red skirt suit.

Closing Statement

If you have seen this film and love it, the DVD is probably worth it. If you haven't seen the film, either rent it or don't bother. There are better ones out there.

The Verdict

All involved with Dying Young are reprimanded and sentenced to thirty lashings with a wet noodle, or watching this movie several times (whichever they find more painful.)

Now please, get this DVD out of my courtroom.

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Scales of Justice

Video: 88
Audio: 90
Extras: 40
Acting: 85
Story: 82
Judgment: 77

Perp Profile

Studio: Fox
Video Formats:
• 1.85:1 Anamorphic
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (English)
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (French)
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (Spanish)
• Spanish
Running Time: 111 Minutes
Release Year: 1991
MPAA Rating: Rated R
• Drama
• Romance

Distinguishing Marks

• Featurette
• Original Theatrical Trailer
• Studio Trailers


• IMDb

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