With Gabriella Wilde, Alex Pettyfer, Bruce Greenwood, Joely Richardson, Robert Patrick. Written by Shana Feste, Joshua Safran. Directed by Shana Feste. Rated PG-13 for sexual content, brief partial nudity, some language and teen partying. 103 minutes.
Way back in 1979–which is to say, before the target audience for this movie was born–Scott Spenser wrote a brilliant and heartbreaking novel about adolescent romance and obsession. By the time ENDLESS LOVE reached the screen in 1981, something had gotten lost, but the movie had at least some similarities to the book. This so-called “remake” is nothing of the kind. Other than the title and a few character names, it has nothing whatsoever to do with Spenser’s story. As a review of the earlier film memorably noted, buying the book is less expensive and will be more satisfying than the movie.
Writer/director Shana Feste, joined by “Gossip Girl” producer Joshua Safran, have instead given us a hackneyed story about the boy from the wrong side of the tracks and the girl just waiting to be freed from her prison of privilege. Alex Pettyfer, 23 at the time of filming, and Gabriella Wilde, 24, play newly minted high school graduates David Eliot and Jade Butterfield. David works in his father Harry’s (Robert Patrick) auto repair shop while Jade is being groomed by her father Hugh (Bruce Greenwood) to follow him into a career in medicine.
The backstory requires us to take a number of things on faith. Jade was so broken up by the death of her brother than she has gone all through high school making no friends and having no social life. This is largely due to her father who has never gotten over his son’s death and has spent the years since controlling every facet of her life. David has admired her since seventh grade but never had the nerve to even speak to her. Now, in an absurd “meet cute” (he’s a valet at the country club where her parents belong), they finally meet and fall madly in love.
Where the original story is about how David increasingly obsesses over Jade, the movie is about how Jade’s father can’t let go. In fact, while we’re supposed to be taken by the intensity of the romance, it’s more likely that the bland but beautiful leads will look like they should be in a fashion spread in Vogue. Meanwhile, the obsessive character here is Jade’s father, who has turned his late son’s bedroom into a shrine, has a medical “internship” lined up for his daughter before her freshman year of college, and has a private detective digging into David’s background.
Greenwood sinks his teeth into the role and gives the film’s most interesting performance, possibly because he’s got the only character with any depth. Even reliable actors like Patrick and Joely Richardson (as Jade’s mother) can only do so much with the cardboard characters they’ve been handed. Jade’s mother, for example, is the author of one book who stopped writing for reasons not fully clear but with the implication that, as with everything else, it’s her husband’s fault. She thinks David is a breath of fresh air and is vicariously enjoying Jade’s blossoming romance. She may be enjoying it more than the audience.
Fans of the disposable adaptations of Nicholas Sparks’ novels (“The Notebook,” “Safe Haven”) may see this as another movie in the same vein: pretty, empty, love conquers all. However even on that level, this “Endless Love” isn’t very good, and as something purporting to be “based on” the book of the same name, it is nothing less than a travesty.•••
Daniel M. Kimmel is a veteran movie critic and author of a host of film-related books. His first novel, Shh! It’s A Secret: A Novel About Aliens, Hollywood and the Bartender’s Guide has just been released. He lives in Somerville, Massachusetts.