February 14, 2014



ENDLESS LOVE:  Not Even For Free – Hopeless Wreck

Truly:  why does this new ENDLESS LOVE exist?  Even on the crassest commercial level, it makes very little sense.  The 1981 Franco Zeffirelli/Brooke Shields/Martin Hewitt version is remembered as neither good nor particularly successful (it made only half as much as Shields’ Blue Lagoon had two summers earlier, and afterwards Hewitt was seemingly wiped off the face of the earth), and if it’s thought of at all these days, it’s for the Diana Ross/Lionel Richie theme song, which isn’t even heard in the 2014 reboot, unless it’s deeper in the end credits than I chose to stay.  (The 1981 movie is also a footnote to Hollywood history because it featured very early roles for Tom Cruise and James Spader.)  In addition, the story and tone have been so fundamentally altered from the Scott Spencer novel and the Zeffirelli picture that with very little further adjustment beyond changing the title, it could have been released as an original piece of work–although still a terrible one.

Actually, Universal seems to have missed its bet with the new version:  the paying audience laughed more enthusiastically at its dreadful dialogue and over-the-top cliches than the ticketbuyers at Ride Along.  If the studio had just pushed things a bit more into flat-out genre parody, it might have found some success.

As a serious soap, this Endless Love is hopeless.  Spencer’s novel was about a level of first love that became dangerous, indistinguishable from obsessive madness; its protagonist set fire to his girlfriend’s house when they were kept apart, and ended up in an institution.  All of that is gone here, and what’s left is a faux-1950s teen melodrama even though it’s set in the present-day, where the only trouble with sensitive hunk hero David (Alex Pettyfer) is that he’d rather work in his father’s garage than go to college (despite being smart enough to score well on his SAT), which makes him not classy enough for perfect rich girl Jade (Gabriella Wilde) in the eyes of her cardiac surgeon father Hugh (Bruce Greenwood), who’s transferred his grief at the death of Jade’s older brother to a sharp-edged overprotectiveness.  David is a fantasy figure, his inner nobility matched only by his male-model looks, who enchants everyone else around him–not just Jade, but her twin brother Keith (Rhys Wakefield) and mother Ann (Joely Richardson) and his own proudly working class father (Robert Patrick)–and Hugh’s disapproval is the only obstacle between the young lovers.  The fire this time is a complete accident–with David as the hero.

Even as escapist CW-level trash, it’s awful.  Director/co-screenwriter Shana Feste did a solid job with The Greatest (which was also about a family trying to recover from a son’s untimely death) and Country Strong, but she directs this time as though she’s got a book of teen-movie cliches (slow-motion dive off a dock!  montage of bikini-clad hijinks!  overhead shot of stoned buddies!) and she’s determined to check off every single one before the end credits roll.  (Feste’s co-writer is Joshua Safran, who was responsible for the second and final season of TV’s Smash, which should have been warning enough.)  Although Pettyfer and Wilde are roughly the same age, she can still more or less pass as a recent high school graduate, but he looks like exactly what he is–a brawny guy in his mid-20s.  (He was Channing Tatum’s stripper protege in Magic Mike.)  Pettyfer also hasn’t completely shaken his English accent, although it comes in handy when David makes a prank phone call using Pettyfer’s real voice, speaking in a far more convincing posh manner than any undereducated Georgia teen should have.  Wilde, for her part, poses and looks doll-like pretty or troubled as the shot requires.

The one and only reason to pay attention to Feste’s Endless Love, other than for the unintentional laughs, is Greenwood’s performance as Jade’s father.  He’s intended as the villain of the piece, but Greenwood understands the desperation that lies just under Hugh’s cruelty–he’s fighting a battle that he’s inevitably going to lose, and on some level he knows it–and that makes him the only human being on screen, and weirdly enough the movie’s closest thing to an emotional center.  It’s a very worthy turn, if a lonely one.

Endless Love is one of three romances arriving for Valentine’s Day this weekend, and amazingly, it manages to be worse than Winter’s Tale, although with its contemporary teen storyline it may sell more tickets.  (About Last Night is by far the most entertaining of the trio, and the question is whether it can cross over beyond its target African-American audience.)   In any case, it should be a memory in a week or so, proof that although it may take 30 years, eventually even a Brooke Shields teen vehicle can look good by comparison.


About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."