With no dreary Nicholas Sparks adaptations ready for Valentine’s Day this year, Hollywood studios have scrambled to find other dull tales of impossible love to fill the gap. In the case of Endless Love, writer-director Shana Feste (Country Strong) has loosely remade Franco Zeffirelli’s 1981 hit (notable for Zeffirelli’s uncomfortable leering at a teenage Brooke Shields, and the irritating Lionel Richie tie-in ballad) into one of those soapy and oddly chaste romantic dramas that define the Nick Sparks/Twilight era.
Reality has no place in a film that defines love as a combination of rain-soaked monologues and youthful frolicking in fields. For anyone mature enough to notice the five-o’clock shadows and plastic surgery on the faces of the distractingly old high-school students, the movie is a difficult watch.
“There was a girl, a beautiful girl surrounded by people,” kicks off the thudding obvious screenplay that inserts voiceovers whenever there’s a hint of ambiguity. That girl is Jade (Gabriella Wilde), a rich high-school senior whose last four years were spent studying, mourning the death of her brother and being enigmatically beautiful. The boy ogling her is David (Alex Pettyfer), a poor lad from the wrong side of the tracks who feels destined to break Jade out of her shell. So, on graduation day, he makes a move. She’s receptive. They frolic.
Her overprotective father (played by Bruce Greenwood in broad villainous tones), however, worries about how the relationship might affect his 17-year-old daughter’s medical ambitions, and he tries to end it. So the lovers frolic in secret. Then the father becomes furious enough to stage a horrendous event to force the lovers apart. At that point the frolicking stops, but thankfully, a love this strong can never truly end (or something like that).
The script is the same old stuff: young love triumphing over parental tyranny. The changes made to the cheesy Zeffirelli original ensure that contemporary teen and tween audiences needn’t worry about issues of frank sexuality or emotional tragedy. Instead viewers are treated to dialogue suited for greeting cards, soft cinematography pulled from a shampoo commercials, model poses substituted for acting, and manipulative emotional simplicity.
Granted, those “qualities” will appeal to the target audience, but that doesn’t make Endless Love a film they need to see. It might be harmless filmmaking in the eyes of ratings boards, but moviegoers who take this bland tripe seriously should beware: A film like Endless Love comes about as close to reality as a Hobbit sequel, only without a single dragon to remind impressionable viewers that they might not want to take it literally.