I'm not great fan of the 1981 Franco Zeffirelli-directed ENDLESS LOVE, so don't look here for any comparisons between that version and the one opening in theaters this week from director and co-writer Shana Feste (COUNTRY STRONG, THE GREATEST), except to say that they're two of most miserable experiences I've had in the theaters in my lifetime.
Based on what I hear is a quite wonderful book by Scott Spencer, I had always assumed that part of the reason the story was so scandalous/popular was that the girl was 15 and the boy was 17, and that the "wrongness" of their ages was a big part of the plot. But in this version, they're both high school seniors (I believe she's 17 and he's 18), so that's not even an issue any longer. What seems to be the driving force behind this relationship is that she just happens to decide to come out of her self-imposed study hermitage at the exact same time he gets up the nerve to talk to her after four years of crushing hard. They don't even really meet until graduation day, but before long Jade (the almost 25-year-old Gabriella Wilde, most recently seen in the CARRIE remake) and David (the nearly 24-year-old Alex Pettyfer, best known for being Channing Tatum's troubled charge in MAGIC MIKE) fall instantly in love, endless love.
David isn't even much of a rebel. He had a little trouble as a kid, punching out a guy for a perfectly acceptable reason. In fact, he's the perfect gentleman, kissing up to Jade's parents (Bruce Greenwood as Hugh and Joely Richardson as Anne) and becoming best buds with Jade's brother Keith (Rhys Wakefield, the smiley masked bad guy from THE PURGE). Jade's entire family is still reeling from the death of the oldest sibling not too long before these events. Hugh still keeps his dead son's room like a shrine to the boy and holds his other kids up to the impossibly high standards the oldest child set. As a result, Hugh comes across as something of a dick toward David, who has no plans to go to college and seems content just working with his dad (Robert Patrick) in the family garage and loving their daughter.
Every challenge and obstacle David and Jade face seems like it's ripped right out of the "Young Lovers' Handbook." And every time David does something right, another drama crops up to make it tougher for Jade and him to sneak off in the night and take a trip to the boneyard. And who am I to say they shouldn't—they are literally the two best-looking human beings on the planet and they deserve each other. Perhaps the strangest thing about ENDLESS LOVE is that what appear to be important pieces of information that crop up during the film rarely pay off by the end. David finds out something about Hugh that could destroy him and his family but nothing comes of it. There's a car accident in one scene that everyone apparently walks away from with no lasting injuries. So, why have it?
And don't get me started on the way Hugh flip-flops on his opinion about David repeatedly throughout the film. Everyone in this film is a living, breathing, walking, talking cliché. All of the couple's friends from high school exist solely to drag them into behavior that will get David in trouble, forcing Hugh to flip or flop, depending on the weather. Not surprisingly, the film get tiresome after a while. Not that there isn't chemistry between the leads—that's actually one of the few things in ENDLESS LOVE that works. I firmly believed that these two pretties were capable of passionate, PG-13 sex.
Nearly every plot twist and turn is telegraphed about 20 minutes in advance, and what is unpredictable is also pointless and deadly dull. Pettyfer is an interesting duck, because I've seen him do good work. But he has to be pushed and challenged by a great filmmaker and/or co-stars for that to happen, and sadly director Feste is not that person. Greenwood is a grump, while Richardson acts like she's on happy pills in every scene. By the time ENDLESS LOVE was done, I couldn't help by think, "I'll have what she's having."
The film's greatest flaw is that it tells us far more than it shows us when it comes to this love affair. Montages of romping through fields or swimming in a lake rule supreme, when an intelligent, affectionate conversation might have convinced us one or both of these chuckleheads actually had the capacity to form an original thought on the subject of love (I would have accepted a mildly clever comment on the subject of ice cubes). Simply telling us how unbelievably smart Jade is over and over again isn't going to cut it, especially when she makes a series of very stupid decisions just because her lady parts got lit up. I not going to tell you whether or not you should see ENDLESS LOVE, but if you do, know that I will be very disappointed in your behavior, young man/lady.