Friday, June 20, 2014

Endless Love (2014): A Review


I never knew Endless Love was based on a book.  I also never saw the original version of the Scott Spencer novel.  The only thing I really know about Endless Love is that it was the source for the Lionel Ritchie/Diana Ross duet which earned a Best Original Song nomination (and which is one of those sappy songs that people either adore or detest.  I find it a bit overblown but still singable).  This remake of Endless Love doesn't have an original song to it, and it doesn't even have the decency to do a remake of the song.  Again, not having read the novel, a little part of me thinks that Spencer wrote a parody of love stories.

After the death of her brother, Jade Butterfield (Gabrielle Wilde) takes shelter in books and withdraws from high school society.  At graduation, she is surprisingly taken by surprise that her other classmates don't sign her yearbook or include her in pictures.  Looking on is David Elliot (Alex Pettyfer, or as I call him, 'Alex Prettyfer').  He is a working-class boy, son of a mechanic (Robert Patrick) who works as a valet in the country club where the WASPy Butterfields go to.  In short order Jade runs off with David in a car he and his eternally wisecracking friend Mace (Dayo Okeniyi) were suppose to park.  In short order, David punches the obnoxious car owner and is fired, but not before Jade becomes instantly charmed and attracted to David.

Despite her isolation, she convinces her parents to throw a graduation party to which David, using his connections (and Pettyfer's native British accent) manages to get the kids that had been ignoring her for four years suddenly come to Jade's massive mansion and party on down.  Jade, along with her surviving brother Keith (Rhys Wakefield) are thrilled to see some happiness in their home, but Jade's father Hugh (Bruce Greenwood) doesn't like any of this, especially David (whom he not only witnessed punching out a guy, but was in the closet with his very virginal daughter).   However, she is simply too much IN LOVE to care: about her father's disapproval, about her internship with an important doctor, even about her future career as a doctor who is going to Brown University.


At first, she and David are content to spend two glorious, fun-filled, passion-filled weeks together, but soon it is not enough.  THEY MUST BE TOGETHER FOR ALL TIME, MAYBE TIME AND ETERNITY!!  (Having come from Utah, certain Mormon thinking has seeped through).  David, however, can cut no ice with Hugh, even though Hugh's wife Anne (Joely Richardson) and surviving son Keith (Rhys Wakefield) find David charming, bringing life into their Ordinary People existence.  Even fixing the dead brother's car won't please Hugh, who wants David to stay way away.  Already upset that Jade has given up the internship for David, he unilaterally packs them off to their vacation home, much to Jade's anger.

We're too pretty to have REAL problems...

Needless to say, when one tries to deny the burning passion of two beautiful-looking people, they will not be denied.   David is invited to the lake house, and a shocked Hugh has to tolerate all this.  Even David's discovery of Hugh's mistress doesn't help matters.  As far as Hugh is concerned, David is all bad news.  David helps in that department with occasional punches, but despite it all, even a restraining order Hugh put on David to keep him away from his adult daughter, and the distance between David and Jade (studying at Brown), and even David's high SAT scores, Hugh won't compromise.  Things all come to a head in a fire at the Butterfield Mansion where Hugh's whole family walks out on him for being a horrible person, and which allows David to redeem himself.  Thus, now David and Jade can have their Endless Love...

I think I should point out that a certain point in Endless Love, I nodded off.  It was getting harder and harder to concentrate on the film when it lends itself so freely to parody.  After withdrawing from high school society all these years, people would so willingly go to a party at Jade's house (and perform dance routines)?  I know it's been a few years since I've been in high school, and I was hardly the most popular guy (unless you were in the Academic Decathlon team), but even I thought this party was shockingly square.

However, things like what teenagers do nowadays is the least of Endless Love's issues.  I thought the obsession Hugh had to protect his daughter from the hunky beauty of David bordered on the incestuous.  I'm sure it wasn't director/co-writer Shana Feste (with Joshua Safran) who intended Hugh's fixation for Jade have such creepy undertones, but what else can be said of a man who would put a restraining order on his adult daughter's boyfriend?  Furthermore, why would his adult daughter not step in and say, "Please remove this restraining order, I'm a grown woman and am not an imbecile?"

Then again, the way Wilde plays her Jade is not innocent but idiot, one who appears not to know what fast-food is.  I'm not joking: she finds going from her posh country club to some drive-thru a real 'walk on the wild side'.   Same goes for Prettyfer.  He's the same vapid performer of such horrors as Beastly and I Am Number Four.  Granted, I haven't seen Magic Mike (somehow, the subject matter never called to me), but I can't imagine like his mentor Channing Tatum, Pettyfer has anything to offer except his body. 

As the lush cinematography takes great pains to focus on the physical beauty of Wilde and Pettyfer (and they are beautiful, no doubt on that) I wasn't convinced by any of it.  I think Jade and David are not in love with each other.  Instead, I'd say they are in love with the idea of being in love.  Their romance is rushed and wildly, bizarrely intense.  These two barely know each other (David only admiring Jade from afar, never actually speaking to her) and yet these two throw themselves into this massively-intense affair, an affair so great Jade willingly, almost casually, gives up her internship to be with him. 

I question how intelligent someone can be to throw away golden opportunities for nothing more than some good times like breaking into a zoo and flirting with getting high. 

However, Endless Love isn't interested in dealing with real people like you or I.  If it did, it would take pains not to introduce things only to never mention them again.  There is the matter of Hugh's mistress, whom we see exactly once, know she is 'the other woman' (even if no one except David and Anne know), and never see or hear from her again.  Same goes for Jade's Brown boyfriend (we never saw him), and David's ex-girlfriend, who just pops in every so often to push the story along.

Pretty much everyone except Wakefield and Richardson embarrass themselves in Endless Love.  To their credit, Wakefield tried to make the 'not-favorite son hiding his hurt beneath his grin' clichéd character worked, and Richardson seemed to know all this was junk.  I found Okeniyi's similarly clichéd "upbeat best friend who has a quick quip for everything' more annoying than anything else (what happens when you want the 'bad guy' to punch the 'good guy'), and Patrick was wasted in his working-class mechanic part.

The one to suffer the worst is Greenwood, who was missing a mustache to twirl every time he was on screen.  He was so shamelessly camp as the 'evil' dad when in many ways (mistress notwithstanding) he was probably the most sensible of the lot. 

Endless Love puts a high gloss on the story that needs more emotion and less pretty visuals to highlight all the pretty people.  It is boring, a bit silly, but not a bad way to pass an hour or two finding ways to laugh at the bad acting, dumb story, and endless ways to make bad actors but beautiful people look even more beautiful while giving worse performances than anyone could imagine coming from them.

Lest We Forget...


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