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Mike Wilmington

By Mike Wilmington

Wilmington on Movies: Endless Love


ENDLESS LOVE (One and a Half Stars)

U.S. Shana Feste, 2013

Endlessly, undyingly…No, we’ve already done that one.

Still, if your appetite for  a Valentine’s Weekend of unfettered romance and unashamed date movies hasn‘t been satiated by Winter‘s Tale or About Last Night, you can always dive in to the endless malarkey of another Endless Love. Not the unabashed 1981 original about teenagers madly in love, directed by Franco Zeffirelli, with Brooke Shields — which is infamous for being a ludicrous misfire, a waste of a   good novel and  one of the worst movies of its era — but a brand new version by director/co-writer Shana Feste, which is even less faithful to Scott Spencer’s book, even more ludicrous and an even worse movie.

Will this become a trend: redoing old lousy movies and making them even lousier? The possibilities seem endless. And frightening. This time the undyingly-in-lovers are a pair of knockout Atlanta teens impersonated by British twenty-something ex-models and now actors Alex Pettyfer and Gabriella Wilde, who look as if their lives were  a perpetual Calvin Klein or Gap assignment. Movie-star-handsome David Elliot is played by Pettyfer, who was the star-is-born  stripper in Magic Mike, and Chanel model-beautiful Jade Butterfield is played by Wilde, who was Sue Snell in the new Carrie.

These are among the last two people in the world you’d expect to have any trouble getting a date. Pettyfer in particular looks almost ideal for sexy rogue movie roles, which is pretty much what he played in Magic Mike. But, in the movie, David  has apparently loved Jade from afar for most of their high school years, too shy to even strike up a conversation in the school hall or the library or by her locker — even, though he looks like a  model, and has, for this role a likable, almost self-effacing  personality. (He was a jerk in Magic Mike.) Jade, meanwhile has no boy or girlfriends and has foregone dating throughout her high school years, the better to mourn the untimely death of her brother and bury herself in books and  deal with a truly bizarre home situation with her father, Hugh (Bruce Greenwood), who is obsessed with getting her into medical school and becomes obsessed with keeping her away from David, who strikes him as too lower-class. (David’s father, played by Robert Patrick, runs a garage, which is not exactly near-poverty.)

But when the two lovers-to-be sight each other across a crowded lawn at the high school graduation reception, sparks fly. Love hits the angelic princess and the bashful hunk, like a ton of Nicholas Sparks DVDs. David can stand the separation no longer. He speaks to her. He gives her killer hunk looks, and she flashes her shy princess smile. They plan a party, at her house, to introduce her to all of the classmates she never talked to and is now leaving behind for medical school.

Dizzy with joy, they leap into a sunlit lake together. They kiss. They swoon with delight. They make love before a roaring fire blazing away in a huge, photogenic fireplace, so desperately in love, or so intent on the scene’s visual symbolism, that neither of them notices that it’s the middle of summer. David makes a hit with Jade’s mother Anne (Joely Richardson), who looks like she wants to gobble him up too. David, Jade and David’s friends — including his scamp of a best bud Mace (Dayo Okeniyi) — break into a zoo, play with the elephant and jump on a merry-go-round. David is arrested. Ah love, sweet love, endless love. Not even a Pepsi ad could have shown it better

But trouble strikes. In the original novel, David was so barmy with desire he burned down the Butterfield home and wound up in the mental hospital and the clink. Here, besides doing stupid things, like driving off in  car that he’s parking (to aggravate the snobbish driver) and breaking into the zoo, David is bedeviled by Jade’s wildly jealous father, Hugh (Bruce Greenwood), who wants his blonde bombshell of a daughter to forget about boys, especially David, and  nd concentrate on medical school — with Greenwood, usually a fine actor, ,giving one of the twitchiest performances this side of Anthony Perkins in Psycho. Hugh is the one who’s really driven mad with love here, but the movie, which is essentially humorless, doesn’t push the point.

How many times can Spencer‘s love story keep  getting debauched?  This is the second botched version of Scott Spencer’s well-regarded 1979 novel of  endless, undying love —  — and by now the new film makes the first one seem like Splendor in the Grass and the novel seem like Anna Karenina. Since the original material is so archetypal, ersatz Romeo and Juliet, set in (or just after) high school, the potential for new travesties seems… endless.


The cinematography (by Andrew Dunn) and the production design (by Clay A. Griffith) are so gleamingly posh and stunningly conspicuous-consumptionish, you keep waiting for spme product placement of, at the very least, BMW. L’Oreal or Absolut Vodka. Director-co-writer Feste (who made the equally pretty but predictable Country Strong), never passes up an opportunity to showcase her stars, or Greenwood’s twitches or the script’s balderdash.  And though both Spencer’s book and Zeffirelli’s picture have unconventional endings, don’t expect this show to dodge any clichés. And also don’t expect to hear the nine-week Number One smash hit Diana RossLionel Richie title song “Endless Love’ that enlivened the first movie and was it‘s single greatest success (other than introducing Tom Cruise and James Spader in the supporting cast) though this movie could have really used it, and them.

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