Hollywood churns out memorable love sagas with remarkable regularity. Last year, we had the beautifully conceived ‘Before Midnight’, while ‘500 Days Of Summer’ (2009) was easily one of the best rom-coms of recent times. Director Shana Feste had already demonstrated her filmmaking finesse in ‘Country Strong’. Surely she could not go wrong with ‘Endless Love’ – the second remake of the novel by Scott Spencer? Oh well, she does – in almost every possible way!
In ‘Endless Love’, we first meet the extremely ‘prim-n-propah’ ‘Jade Butterfield’ (Gabriella Wilde) – on the convocation day at school. Hers has been a melancholy life – with the sudden death of her loving elder brother ‘Chris’ seeming to weigh her down at all times. Her social life is a trainwreck, since none of her peers even know her name properly. That is, of course, except our hero – ‘David Elliot’ (Alex Pettyfer).
Egged on by best buddy ‘Mace’ (Dayo Okeniyi), ‘David’ manages to finally talk to his big-time crush ‘Jade’ (he is said to have simply gaped at her for the last four years!). The object of his affections starts falling for ‘David’s advances – and invites him to a house party. When the party seems destined to be a failure (for who would want to attend a party hosted by a girl nicknamed ‘Ice Queen’?), ‘David’ saves the day by tricking all of their batchmates into coming over. What’s more – he repairs Chris’ old car, which makes him a darling in the eyes of ‘Anne’ (Joely Richardson), ‘Jade’s mother. Our leading lady’s younger brother ‘Keith’ (Rhys Wakefield) and his girlfriend ‘Sabine’ (Anna Enger) adore ‘David’ too.
The roadblock in this smoothly blossoming love affair comes in the form of ‘Jade’s father, ‘Hugh’ (Bruce Greenwood). Still grieving from the loss of his most promising eldest child, he can’t even bear the thought of ‘Jade’ putting her further studies at stake for the sake of ‘David’ – who is (stereotypically) talented but hails from a humble background. To make sure that ‘Jade’ sacrifices her love and goes off to Brown University for a med internship, ‘Hugh’ takes the pains of even digging up dirty secrets about ‘David’s family (some would-be father-in-law, this!). Will ‘Jade’ stay strong and defy her dad to be with ‘David’? The movie is not called ‘Endless Love’ without a reason!
There is nothing in the name of character development in this sappy, melodramatic and painfully predictable flick. Alex Pettyfer probably feels that twitching his eyebrow and bundling up his nose (he does that both when happy and sad/angry) is equivalent to an acting masterclass. His was a poor performance in ‘Beastly’ (2011) – and Pettyfer has clearly not improved in the acting department since then. In a love story, you want to root for the hero – but the sight of this beefy and clearly untalented young man makes it practically impossible.
Gabriella Wilde, as ‘Jade’ fares slightly better in ‘Endless Love’ (you might remember her from the bit part in 2013’s horror flick, ‘Carrie’). She looks pretty as a picture, and in one sequence – in a flaming-red off-shoulder gown, is absolutely breathtaking. What bogs her down is the sketchy characterization. She has never mixed with boys earlier (or other girls, for that matter) – but the way she clings to ‘David’ after the first couple of meetings looks forced. The two do not FALL IN LOVE – the director merely decides that half an hour into the movie, ‘David’ and ‘Jade’ MUST BE all lovey-dovey. A couple of sequences when ‘Jade’ stands up to her overbearing dad are well-enacted though.
The character of ‘Hugh Butterfield’ is probably the most unintentionally hilarious in the movie. Bruce Greenwood has, over the years, proved that he is a fine character actor – but here, none of his actions make any sense. It’s understandable that he has lost a child, and is wary of losing another for a ‘lowlife’ boyfriend (that’s how he refers to ‘David’) – but his grim determination to destroy the affair is beyond all comprehension. He clearly sees that his darling daughter is happy after a long, long while, ‘David’ himself is a talented and hard-working guy who has every potential to get into a good college – and yet he refuses to approve the match. He even insults ‘David’s dad, and lies to his own wife – just to show how unfit ‘David’ is as a suitor for his girl. Why ‘Hugh’ was kissing another woman on the sly also remains a mystery.
The rest of the actors do their bit to prop up ‘Endless Love’ (as much as this lousy bit of filmmaking can be propped up, that is). Joely Richardson, as ‘Anne’, is sincere – as is Robert Patrick, as ‘David’s father. Dayo Okeniyi is perfectly cast as the over-enthusiastic yet well-meaning sidekick of the hero. Rhys Wakefield makes the character of ‘Keith’ come alive – although he gets limited screen time.
A movie that aspires to be an epic romance simply must have great music. Expect nothing of the sort in ‘Endless Love’. You just won’t realize that there is any background score in most of the scenes – and many sequences seem dull due to this. The tunes, by Christophe Beck, needed to be much better, to add that elusive bit of magic to the movie.
Andrew Dunn’s camerawork in ‘Endless Love’ is steady, if nothing remarkable. The movie sets have a polished feel about them. Shannon Chadwick, the set designer, deserves kudos for doing his job right (someone had to, in the whole movie!). Except for the verse right near the end, all the dialogs are hackneyed and are not worth remembering. Editing, by Maryann Brandon, is efficient – as the film never seems to drag at any point. That the activities of the characters are not making much sense is an entirely different matter!
‘Endless Love’, in essence, is an unnecessary remake – made doubly howlarious by the patchy narration by director Shana Feste, the lame, one-dimensional storyline, and the sub-par performances from almost all the main actors. You might catch it on DVD on a lazy weekend afternoon – but spending big bucks at a theater for this cliched recipe for boredom doesn’t make much sense.
‘Endless Love’ has the tagline ‘A Love Worth Fighting For’. I, for one, found nothing resembling a fight for love – from either of the two people having an affair in the film. Or does the laughably bad climax (when ‘David’ jumps in to save ‘Hugh’ from a burning house, and promptly collapses himself!) count?