Critic's Rating: 2.5 stars out of 5
Rated PG-13 by the MPAA
Directed by Shana Feste. Starring Alex Pettyfer, Gabriella Wilde, Dayo Okeniyi, Rhys Wakefield, Bruce Greenwood, Joely Richardson and Robert Patrick. Opens Fri., Feb. 14 at area theaters.
If you cringed at the sappy (and creepy) trailer for Endless Love, starring dreamy newcomers Alex Pettyfer and Gabriella Wilde, you’re not alone. Although this remake is as unoriginal as dramas about young love come, it’s a mostly sincere effort with some surprisingly satisfying moments. The melodrama, directed by Shana Feste (Country Strong), tells the story of the whirlwind romance between recent high school graduates Jade Butterfield (Wilde) and David Elliot (Pettyfer). It’s a classic scenario we’ve seen time and time again: Jade is a shy, rich girl with a bright future and controlling father, while David is the poor but charismatic boy her daddy doesn’t approve of.
We learn in the opening of the film that Jade is a bit of an outcast, having withdrawn from interacting with her peers after losing her older brother to cancer. For the past several years she's swapped a social life for studying and family outings, leaving the 17-year-old with a prestigious pre-med internship and literally zero friends. We also learn that David has a crush on Jade, but has never pursued her because he thinks she is out of his league.
Although the impetus for their relationship is established in the opening scenes — she’s tired of being an outcast and this is his last chance to pursue her — their first interaction feels like a chance meeting. That being said, the film runs with it and doesn’t look back for a second. The rapid and somewhat unconventional courtship is easily the highlight of the movie despite a few nauseatingly cheesy moments. The actors are well-cast, exhibiting a good mix of teenage awkwardness and sexual chemistry. Though both are believable, Pettyfer’s performance is the one that really stands out.
Like many mainstream romances, the main characters are a bland brand of perfect. Jade is an extremely sheltered girl who’s finally coming out of her shell, but never really shows much personality. David is essentially a carbon copy of the archetypal leading man found in every Nicholas Sparks novel/film adaptation. He’s charming, serious, smart, romantic, and his actions are completely warranted even when he acts out. While the film places the couple squarely on an angelic pedestal, the exact opposite can be said for the film’s antagonist, Jade’s judgmental and controlling father (Bruce Greenwood). He’s an unrelenting SOB and the only real source of conflict throughout.
Although the film features more than its share of histrionics, the trailer is misleading. The trailer, combined with the tagline “Say Goodbye to Innocence,” has an eeriness that the film thankfully lacks. The audience gets the sense that the young lovers are growing up, as opposed to losing their innocence, which has a decidedly more negative connotation. From what I’ve read, the trailer seems more suited to the 1981 version, the synopsis of which reads like a soap opera. Though there are definite parallels to the original, this remake appears to have been decidedly toned down from its '80s counterpart. I’m not sure, however, if that makes it less crazy or just more dull.
Despite the unoriginal and dramatic premise, Endless Love isn’t a total failure. Two characters, Jade’s other brother (Rhys Wakefield) and David’s best friend (Dayo Okeniyi), add levity and are entertaining to watch. The film also benefits greatly from a well-timed soundtrack consisting mostly of indie songs. Endless Love is no great film, but you could definitely do worse this Valentine’s Day.