A film review by Craig J. Koban June 27, 2014 


2014, PG-13, 103 mins.


Alex Pettyfer as David Elliot  /  Gabriella Wilde as Jade Butterfield  /  Bruce Greenwood as Hugh Butterfield  /  Joely Richardson as Anne Butterfield  /  Rhys Wakefield as Keith Butterfield  /  Robert Patrick as Harry Elliot  /  Dayo Okeniyi as Mace  /  Emma Rigby as Jenny  /  Anna Enger as Sabine

Directed by Shana Feste  /  Written by  Feste and Joshua Safran

ENDLESS LOVE is a remake to a 1981 Franco Zeffirelli film that I have not seen, which in turn was based on the1979 Scott Spencer novel of the same name that I have not read.  As a result, I am left with the task of reporting primarily on what I’ve seen in ENDLESS LOVE and not so much as to how it stacks up to its cinematic predecessor of its literary inspiration.  I have read, though, that Spencer himself reportedly stated that this second remake of his novel “has even more egregiously and ridiculously misunderstood” his work.  After seeing ENDLESS LOVE I can’t comment on the validity of his claim, but I can certainly attest to the notion that this romantic drama is indeed egregiously ridiculous throughout. 

At least I know what Spencer’s novel was about (a tale of a young, emotionally unstable teen that falls in love with a rich girl that grows and simmers to unhealthy obsession), which, frankly, does not really seem like a truly novel idea for a contemporary film.  I can definitely understand the appeal of adapting the film in the early 1980’s, but even Zeffirelli’s film – a relative box office success – was greeted back then with massive critical derision.  On paper, it appears that Spencer’s novel was at least attempting to comment and dissect the very misguided nature of “true” love and how it can become both a healthy and dangerously unstable element in one’s life.  Yet, ENDLESS LOVE, as a film, does very little to compellingly probe such deep psychological underpinnings to its inherent material.  Its notions of love are of the endlessly banal and trivial Harlequin Romance novel variety, which, by the time the film reaches its unintentionally laughable conclusion, does not really amount to a hill of beans in the world. 

The overall story of ENDLESS LOVE has been told so many bloody times in so many various forms that I grew listlessly bored with it within its first 15-20 minutes.  It’s a tale of two teenagers on different stratospheres of the socio-economic pendulum, but alas opposites do indeed attract here.  David Elliot (Alex Pettyfer) and Jade Butterfield (Gabriella Wilde) have just recently graduated from high school, but they could not be anymore different.  David is a book smart, well read, but relatively shy introvert that spends most of his time working at his dad’s (Robert Patrick) auto shop.  He has pined for Jade from afar for years, but has never had the confidence to walk up and talk to her (despite the fact that he is clearly one of the most handsome lads in his school and could probably score with any girl he wanted, but never mind).  Jade is a girl of wealth and privilege that has essentially been living within the overprotective bubble that her father Hugh (Bruce Greenwood) has created for her.  Maybe, though, Hugh has a reason for being very guarded with his daughter, seeing as his son died of cancer two years earlier. 



Of course, sparks do indeed fly between David and Jade on the night of their graduation, and within no time the pair begin seeing each other and eventually become an inseparable item for most of the summer.  The problem that impedes their love is Jade’s father, whom manifests his recent grief over his son’s death in the form of meticulously micro-managing every facet of Jade’s life, from her scholastic to her social endeavors.  That, and Hugh is a bit of an upper class snob that can’t bring himself to believe that a good natured blue collared boy like David could be any good for Jade.  Even though Jade’s mother (Joely Richardson) seems to live vicariously through her daughter’s first real love, it brings no end of frustration and anxiety to Hugh.  The more that David begins to insinuate himself into Jade’s life, the more Hugh begins to take great measures to sabotage his daughter’s relationship with him.  Rather predictably, things boil over and get very complicated for everyone. 

ENDLESS LOVE could have greatly benefited from some natural chemistry from its two leads, but Alex Pettyfer and Gabriella Wilde come off more as runway models masquerading as a couple in the film than they do as an authentically rendered item (both actors, being in the mid-twenties, never once come off realistically as 18-year-old high school grads).  Exacerbating this is the fact that Pettyfer and Wilde lack the emotional range as performers to run the emotional gauntlet that their characters are forced to go on during the film.  They are, for certain, beautiful people that the camera loves, but throughout ENDLESS LOVE I was constantly thinking about how much more interesting the film could have been with some off-centered casting of young stars that appeared more naturally good looking.  Pettyfer and Wilde are so pristine in the film that they look positively airbrushed.  Even their would-be hot love scenes – of the PG-13 variety – have all the passion of a Calvin Klein cologne ad. 

Beyond that, what’s the end game of ENDLESS LOVE?  What’s it really trying to say?  The perception that I got while watching it was that it’s yearning to send a message to young adult viewers that all two impressionable and naive souls need is each other to be complete in life, regardless of any type of past baggage that may or may not hurt them in the long run.  The message here is kind of unsavory, to say the least.  David and Jade are so unstable in the manner that they cling to one another without really getting a finer impression of what makes each other tick.  It’s no wonder why Hugh – a man that’s kind of unfairly painted as the hostile antagonist here – worries for his daughter.  Ultimately, ENDLESS LOVE plays the creepy nature of David and Jade’s courtship squeaky clean and annoyingly safe.  What this film desperately needs is a more nihilistic grit and darker, riskier edge.  The screenplay concocts obstacles and conflicts between various characters throughout when it feels obliged to, and then neatly finds solutions and closure to them.  If only life’s undying string of complications were so easy to resolve. 

ENDLESS LOVE is modestly saved from complete wretchedness by a few things: Bruce Greenwood never overplays his neurotic and possessive father figure, which is nice to see (he gives a far better performance than the written character deserves).  Joely Richardson and Robert Patrick lend a nice layer of soulful credibility to the proceedings.  Yet, just about everything built around these stalwart veteran actors is a mess.  ENDLESS LOVE was originally released Valentine’s Day this year, which leaves it feeling very much like an empty minded, core audience placating, and slickly packaged date flick.  If you’re looking for an intelligent and observant film about what teenagers really go through while on the topsy-turvy rollercoaster ride of falling in love...then I highly recommend last year’s wonderful THE SPECTACULAR NOW.  That brilliant film felt like it was truthfully holding up a mirror to the contemporary adolescent experience.  ENDLESS LOVE is the adolescence experience seen through an obstructively thick coat of inadvertent camp and pathetic insignificance. 

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