2014 - 103 minutes
Directed by: Shana Feste
Written by: Shana Feste, Joshua Safran
Starring: Alex Pettyfer, Gabriella Wilde, Bruce Greenwood, Joely Richardson, Robert Patrick, Rhys Wakefield, Dayo Okeniyi
Endless Love is rather unique in that is both a pointless, unfaithful adaptation and also a pointless, generic telling of modern teen love. It’s curious how it uses the 1979 novel by Scott Spencer for inspiration and associates with the 1981 Franco Zeffirelli film starring Brooke Shields (and by extension the ubiquitous-in-the-80s song by Lionel Richie and Diana Ross), all while keeping the source material at arm’s length, homogenizing the more lurid bits into a safe, made-for-daytime TV melodrama.
David (Alex Pettyfer), a sensitive teen with a criminal record, has long pined for sheltered good girl Jade (Gabriella Wilde). She’s off to Brown University at the behest of her controlling father Hugh (Bruce Greenwood), so David must act fast. Thankfully, Jade’s rich family belongs to the country club were David parks cars, so four years of inaction is solved by a dropped yearbook as she exits a luxury sedan. The move that’s made forces Jade out of her comfort zone, and she’s quickly arrested by David’s charms. Previously unknown passions sparked, the nubile girl is willing to defy dad and sacrifice a safe future for a real chance with David. As the relationship deepens – shown via universal signs of sexual desire like water balloon fights and dancing in fountains – Hugh becomes more overtly threatening, determined to guide his daughter down a certain path.
Instead of smoldering (despite a fire with circumstances drastically changed from the book), Endless Love sputters. Typical obstacles are put in place – among them Hugh digging into David’s criminal past and a summer internship for Jade – only to be circumvented dutifully and without much fanfare. A restraining order is introduced as serious business, and David’s mechanic father (Robert Patrick) counsel’s Jade to stay away after arriving on his doorstep. Even though in real time it may be several weeks or months later, in movie time it’s only a few minutes before that same guy is pumping up his son (as he works a punching bag) to get her back.
Unevenness permeates the work from director Shana Feste and co-writer Joshua Safran. There’s never a true sense of danger or distaste in the young romance. We are just to accept that David and Jade are meant to be, despite them barely speaking anything of substance to each other. Hugh is also the snarling bad guy, despite the fact his psychosis concerning “losing” his child is spawned from the tragic death of a son. The rest of Jade’s family exists to reinforce these notions – her mother (Joely Richardson) pens a college recommendation letter for David that is unintentionally hilarious in its sentimentality, while another brother (Rhys Wakefield) pops up every now and again for serio-comic observations of his father’s iron fist. On David’s side of the ledger are a wisecracking buddy that comes across as a pompous jerk, and a scheming ex-girlfriend who looks more like a cast member of the “Real Housewives” series than teen femme fatale.
Without much to do other than stare and brood, Pettyfer and Wilde give lifeless performances, which is a pity because they’ve shown chops in the past – he in Magic Mike, and she in last year’s underrated Carrie remake. Endless Love treats them as little more than set dressing, mere pawns in a plodding dredge that skips any manic, meaningful urges in favor of an admiration of how pretty they are. Instead of a loss of innocence there’s a loss of any thoughtful observation.
© 2014 by Blake Crane