San Francisco Chronicle
POSTED: 1:30 a.m. HST, Feb 14, 2014
"Endless Love" is a remake of a passionate but horribly executed 1981 movie, best remembered for the ubiquitous wedding song that it spawned.
The update is a different kind of failure, too much endless and not enough love. Perhaps worst of all, the Lionel Richie/Diana Ross hit "Endless Love" is not included in the film. Imagine going to a San Francisco Giants game, and finding out the team forgot to bring a baseball.
The earlier movie, based on Scott Spencer's acclaimed 1979 novel, was at least an interesting failure. Rated R and filled with doomed protagonists — including a young teen lover played by 16-year-old Brooke Shields — it had a Shakespearean quality. If not for the poor editing, acting and a couple of narrative blunders, it could have been a complex character study.
The new "Endless Love" doesn't have those kinds of ambitions. This time, David is a mechanic's son and Jade is a rich doctor's daughter. There are no acts of arson or stays in a mental hospital; just a series of too-convenient misunderstandings that propel half the story forward. The rest of the conflict is provided by two purely evil characters, Jade's dad and David's ex-girlfriend. Everyone else in the movie ranges from lovable to saint.
Alex Pettyfer is solid as David (a young Andrew McCarthy comes to mind), but the rest of the actors are rarely engaged on the same level. As a love story, the movie offers no moral complexity, just a few montages of the kids having fun, followed by a series of contrived obstacles to overcome.
The PG-13 rating doesn't help, leading to some awkward cuts and muted passion. Even as Jade (Gabriella Wilde) mutters a self-conscious "I don't want to wait — I want to feel this with you" during the centerpiece living room love scene, their bodies already seem to be dissolving into a soft filter.
"Endless Love" is not a very good movie, but it is fairly harmless. Writer/director Shana Feste has a grasp on teenagers — even ones being played by actors in their mid-20s. It's nice to see a house party that features a music-themed game of charades and cabs called for the kids, instead of a drunken bacchanalia.
Other plot turns are bluntly telegraphed, forcing good actors to sell ridiculous lines. Robert Patrick as David's father deserves a better centerpiece scene than the one here, where he urges his son to break a restraining order in the name of love.
One final note: It's easy to feel sympathy for Richie and Ross, who probably missed out on a huge royalty check. (It's possible "Endless Love" played during the credits; I left before they were finished.) But the real victim in all of this is Spencer, who is still writing books, and must watch his tragic novel about dangerous obsession and true heartbreak get mangled anew every two generations.
Spencer will be 101 years old when the next "Endless Love" comes out in 2047. Let's hope the filmmakers in charge of that remake can finally get it right.