Review: Endless Love
The original incarnation of Scott Spencer’s hot and heavy novel about teenagers in love was the 1981 movie Endless Love, directed by Franco Zeffirelli, in true Zeffirelli style. Don’t remember that one? That’s okay, it was fairly unmemorable, save for being Tom Cruise’s first movie appearance, (Blonde! Wearing jorts!), the lead character’s name being David Axelrod, (which also happened to be the name of Barack Obama’s campaign advisor), and the fact that Brooke Shields, playing Juliet to David’s Romeo, was extremely young, and also, fairly unclothed. Oh, and the fact that their love survives, (it is Endless, after all), despite David, in a fit of teenage hormones, BURNS JADE’S HOUSE TO THE GROUND WITH HER AND HER FAMILY IN IT!
That song, though! Written by Lionel Richie, and sung with Diana Ross as a duet, the lyrics are all passion: “My love. There’s only you in my life. The only thing that’s right. My first love. You’re every step that I take. The only move I make”. That’s endless love. In contrast, the 2014 version of Endless Love, not technically a remake, nor really adapted from the book, directed and co-written by Shana Feste, uses the music as a selling point, (Feste previously directed Country Strong, and Josh Schwartz as a producer). This version dares to re-imagine Richie’s hit as All our Endless Love by The Bird and the Bee, featuring Matt Beringer, which features the lyrics, “is this really ending, is this really ending, all our endless love). In a sense, this song sets the tone for the 2014 version of Endless Love, as the sparks between Alex Pettyfer’s David, (don’t call me Axelrod), and Gabriella Wilde’s Jade Butterfield fails to ignite, unlike the fire that burns Butterfield’s house to the ground, (and for very different reasons this time).
Pettyfer, perhaps taking his character’s name of David to heart, acts with all of the passion of a statue, seeming to know that he loved Jade from afar, but never quite expressing why she is so fascinating to him, (especially when a perfectly smitten ex-girlfriend seems to hang on his every move). David is from the wrong side of the tracks in Georgia, forced to park, (and fix) cars, along with his sassy-talking best friend Mace, (played by Dayo Okeniyi, who is recognizable as Thresh from The Hunger Games). Mace does his part to support David in his pursuit, does some interpretative dancing, and then basically disappears, (with nary a cannon fire to signify his disappearance). No, the real obstacle standing in the way of David and Jade getting together in this version is Jade’s father, Hugh, played by Canadian actor Bruce Greenwood. Hugh’s intentions actually seem quite honorable in the beginning, as his introduction to low-class David is immediately after a scuffle with a Thicke-alike outside of the restaurant where Jade is celebrating a graduation dinner, and David is working.
Hugh’s second introduction to David is when Hugh takes it upon himself to give a graduation speech to Jade in front of her frenemies at her house party (it’s complicated). Hugh goes on and on, calling Jade his light, not knowing where she is hiding. It turns out that she was in a closet canoodling with prospective flame David, almost kissing, which somehow seems to enrage Hugh. Call me new-fashioned, but it seems like Hugh, though good-intentioned at first, becomes one of the most overprotective parents in the world. In an era of twerking, selfies, and (porno chic), Hugh goes on a rampage to protect his daughter Jade from going anywhere near the bland David, because, you know, parent stuff.
This initiative to not ask his wife (Joely Richardson, wasted), and daughter for any input into this situation slowly transforms Hugh from caring parent, into apparent trauma victim, (remember that fire, kids). Still, the movie has him pile on the indiscretions: heaping abuse upon elder son Keith (Rhys Wakefield) for choosing to go to Arizona State and studying communications, (valid criticism, but still…), and seemingly being the only one in the family mourning the loss of youngest son Chris, perhaps giving new meaning to the title of Endless Love.
As for the lovers themselves, there is no point in the movie that suggests that their first love has any basis for surviving. A “let’s make the most of the time we still have together” montage, seems to highlight the beauty of Atlanta in summer more than anything, and Pettyfer’s David expresses exactly one moment where he seemed to fit the character, (making a crank call by “pretending” to speak with an English accent). Poor Gabriella Wilde, (born Gabriella Zanna Vanessa Anstruther-Gough-Calthorpe) does even less with her Jade, but her eyes are blue, and her hair is blonde, and she looks appropriately pouty, so perhaps she gets a pass.
But when a movie has the voice of reason being David’s father Harry, (Robert Partrick), it is clear that fatherly love needs to step aside in favour of young love, except for the fact that David and Jade use the word “love” endlessly, and never seem to be in much of it. David is nice enough to write “I Love U” on a car windshield, and Yo, that shorthand seems to say it all. “Love is a life insurance…a mortgage”, intones Hugh, while Pettyfer and Wilde stare at him blankly.
Perhaps the movie should have been entitled Ndless Luv.