Judge Gordon Sullivan suffers from endless heartburn.
A love worth fighting for.
In general, I find remakes to be unnecessary, but the rare exception is usually found in films aimed at adolescent viewers. Yes, I can shake my head and "tut-tut" at "kids these days" not appreciating classics and needing every film they watch to mention Twitter. But, one of the key features of adolescence is tension between what's new to you and cliché to the rest of the world. That first love, the first car, the first everything feels like a unique experience never before seen and never to be repeated. Adults looking in from the outside see another adolescent crush, another kid who can't drive, etc. But in those moments it is important to maintain that sense of "this is mine and nobody else's." So, even if a fine film from the past exists, it's difficult for young viewers to feel like they own it, which, to a certain extent, justifies them being remade. No contemporary teenager wants to admit to enjoying 1981's Endless Love—it may be Tom Cruise's debut, but that guy's over 50 now and that's a bit weird. Instead, they get Alex Pettyfer and Gabriella Wilde falling in love for the first time. For the 13-year-old crowd the film is aimed at, it's perfect. To the rest of us, it's a snoozefest of the highest order.
Facts of the Case
Jade Butterfield (Gabriella Wilde, Carrie) just graduated high school. She's going to go on to an internship before college and an eventual medical degree. She's got controlling parents who are still reeling from the untimely death of her brother. Into her world walks the working-class David (Alex Pettyfer, Magic Mike), a member of her graduating cohort who's been crushing on her for years. The two meet at David's job, and he slowly starts to bring her out of her shell. Eventually they fall in love, much to the consternation of Jade's parents.
Endless Love is a particular brand of romantic fantasy that is, like most romance, aimed at women; young women in this case. It presents a world in which the young protagonist is a very good girl until the perfect boy comes along, and he will of course fall madly in love with her. Because he needs to prove his love, her parents will be against their union, and in siding with her new boyfriend against her parents, the young woman will assert her newly-adult standing. Everything will work out in the end.
Because the film is aimed at teenagers and features teenagers, it has to mirror the hormone-saturated world they live in, where every single moment is heightened by it being the first. So even though Jade's parents are being fairly sensible, it has to be a grand betrayal. Because she loves David it has to be an Endless Love. I hope you get the picture. In that sense, the film delivers on its PG-13 promises of romance, sexuality, and rebellion.
The film also get a pretty decent Blu-ray release. The film's 2.35:1/1080p AVC-encoded image is suffused with the warm glow of first-love an early summer. Colors are brilliantly saturated, and detail is strong throughout. Black levels, especially when our young lovers are getting naked together, are deep and consistent. Overall, the look of the film may be its best feature, and that gets shown off to good effect here. The DTS-HD 5.1 track also captures every breathy statement of devotion and balances it perfectly with the film's swelling, swooning score. Surrounds get a bit of use during party scenes and the like, but this is generally a pretty toned-down track.
Extras start with a fairly standard making-of featurette that gives viewers a peek behind the scenes. Exclusive to the Blu-ray are an extended ending and a set of deleted/extended/alternate scenes. They're inessential, but the target demographic will appreciate them. There's also a DVD and Ultraviolet Digital Copy of the film.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
For everyone outside the target demographic, Endless Love will just seem endless. To appreciate the film, you have to believe a pair of teenagers who barely know each other somehow recognize their love is endless. You have to believe that parents are hypocrites who think they're protecting their children even though they're really jerks. You have to believe that working class people are automatically virtuous as adults, and that the upper class are automatically the bad guys. If you can get over that, Endless Love is filled with predictable, nonsensical plot points that pit David and Jade against her father repeatedly until David has proven his love.
Two things really kill Endless Love for older viewers. The first is that the film is painfully shallow. Yes, young love feels life-defining, but any film that doesn't acknowledge that it can be overwhelming in a bad way just doesn't fly in 2014. This didn't need to go all Fear and turn David into a stalker. However, to not at least acknowledge that it's bit weird for him to be crushing on her for four years without saying anything, or that she would derail her whole life over a summer's romance just seems helplessly, hopelessly naïve to anyone over 21, and likely many under 21 as well.
The other thing that really sinks Endless Love is the fact that pretty much every one of the actors is sleepwalking through their part. There's not a single iota of chemistry between Pettyfer and Wilde. Rumor has it that Shields turned down the role in the original because her only job would be to "look pretty," which is exactly the extent of Wilde's performance here. Pettyfer is no better. He's nice to look at too, but they don't sell the romance between them at all. Not even dancing together in the barely-lit parking lot elicits even a touch of romance from them. The rest of the cast is no better, with the adults largely letting stereotypes guide their performance, with Joely Richardson as the alcoholic society wife and Robert Patrick as the down-to-earth-mechanic. The lone exception is the surprisingly menacing Bruce Greenwood as Jade's father, but even he's wasted on a role that doesn't ask much of him.
Endless Love will no doubt appeal to 13-year-olds for the next few years as they navigate their way through adolescence. The film promises love that is enduring and beautiful, if a bit hard-won, and all with the right guy who's out there waiting. For everybody else, Endless Love is clichéd and boring. Even the excellent Blu-ray doesn't recommend the film for even a rental.
Definitely not worth fighting for. Guilty!
Give us your feedback!
What's "fair"? Whether positive or negative, our reviews should be unbiased, informative, and critique the material on its own merits.
Scales of Justice
• Alternate Ending
Review content copyright © 2014 Gordon Sullivan; Site design and review layout copyright © 2016 Verdict Partners LLC. All rights reserved.