Endless Love (2014) / Romance-Drama
MPAA Rated: PG-13 for sexual content, some language and teen partying
Running Time: 103 min.
Cast: Alex Pettyfer, Gabriella Wilde, Bruce Greenwood, Joely Richardson, Robert Patrick, Rhys Wakefield, Dayo Okeniyi, Emma Rigby, Anna Enger, Fabianne Therese
Director: Shana Feste
Screenplay: Shana Feste, Joshua Safran (based on the book by Scott Spencer)
Review published February 15, 2014
Endless Love takes its name not only from the 1981 Franco Zefferelli film, of which this is a remake, but also from the 1979 book by Scott Spencer, but, outside of the names of the main characters and a few of the events, this goes into entirely different directions. Unfortunately, not for the better. It's a film in which its characters exist in their own time and place -- a fantasy realm that appears to reside in some pocket of Earth in which all known rules of normalcy do not apply.
The most notable change from its source material is that it gears its aim strictly toward teenage audiences, which is fine considering that few in that set will have even heard of the earlier film, starring Brooke Shields, much less the novel upon which it is based. It also plays out in a decidedly toothless, PG-13 kind of way, severely downplaying the eroticism and darker thematic material of its source in order to play up the dreamier dramatic romance between its protagonists in their late teens.
Set in sultry Georgia, Alex Pettyfer (The Butler, In Time) stars as David Elliott, an 18-year-old son of a single, auto-mechanic father, who has held a secret crush on the rich, beautiful but very antisocial, 17-year-old Jade Butterfield (Wilde, Carrie), who stuck her nose into books instead of friends after the loss of her beloved older brother to cancer. Jade's perpetual studying pays off with the promise of a bright future, following in her cardiologist father Hugh's (Greenwood, Star Trek Into Darkness) footsteps by taking a prestigious internship followed by entry in a premed program at Brown University in a few short weeks.
When the ice finally breaks between the recently graduated teens, sparks fly, which dad finds unnerving, given her entry into love shortly before she is set to move away. Dad's fears prove to be right, as the bond between David and Jade proves so strong that she can't bear to be away from him for even a second. If he's going to make sure his daughter keeps set on course, he's going to have to try to nip their love in the bud before she throws away her best chance at a great future.
Endless Love suffers from an endless amount of problems, not the least of which is that despite being a relatively young (by Hollywood standards, anyway) 23 years of age, Alex Pettyfer looks far too manly to ever buy as someone who just graduated high school. His counterpart in love, Gabriella Wilde, is actually older by a year, but at least she looks young. But, what she doesn't look like, what with her exuberant confidence, highlighted hair, tan body and model-like physique, is a reclusive, socially-awkward teenager who spent her entirety of her high school years not concerned with going out, making friends, or attracting members of the opposite sex.
How her peers view her as an 'ice queen' when she is by far the most friendly person we see on the screen is beyond our ability to buy into. Except perhaps by the nearly perfect David himself, who is so nice that he even is willing to buy the book written by Jade's mother (Richardson, Vampire Academy), who gave up her dreams of becoming a writer decades before (and yet her obscure book is still in print), just so she can sign it for him. And, it also sparks his thirst for reading, which is evidenced by the fact that the two stumble into each other in one of the film's many contrived moments in the same book store.
Not only this, but these teenagers have a romanticized form of love that comes, not from the minds of first-time lovers, but from the overly idealized minds of adults trying to sell off a romantic drama through well-lit set design and a collection of dreamy-to-steamy moments. Jade sneaks in David in order to make out in front of a raging fireplace, which, for some reason, no one in the house suspects is going. From frolicking among the fields, sunny dips by the lake, getting crazy at the big concerts, perfectly choreographed "impromptu" couples dance-offs at the house party, midnight break-ins at the local zoo for rides on the carousel, or stealing kisses whenever and wherever they can, it's a jam-packed session of love among teens who act like they know how to do everything romantic just right from the get go.
Much of this makes no sense whatsoever. When David visits the family as they decide to take a mini-trip to a lake house, he asks Jade if she wants to join him in doing something fun. Cut to the next scene of them, along with Jade's other, still-living sibling and his girlfriend, enjoying shooting off a bunch of professional-grade fireworks up in the air at night. Does David carry fireworks wherever he goes? No, it seems the fireworks come from the lake house's garage, which begs the question as to how David knew they even had fireworks to shoot off when he clearly is the one who suggests it.
Director and co-scripter Shana Feste (Country Strong, The Greatest) delivers all of these camp-worthy developments with a straight face, which only will make it ripe for those prone to make fun of the schmaltziest and most superficial of love stories. At one point, Jade tells David, "Let's be young and dumb, just for tonight." I'm not sure why they think they haven't already been doing this all along, but when you are dealing with screenwriting this bad, it's good to know that even Feste isn't so young or so dumb that she doesn't know she's about to unleash an even more egregiously terrible, nonsensical scene than the many that came before. Endless Ineptitude would be the better title.
©2014 Vince Leo